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Hairy Bittercress

Edible Edible Autumn Autumn Spring Spring Summer Summer Winter Winter

This lovely, strong tasting little plant is available all year and is abundant in the UK.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Hairy Bittercress, Lambs Cress, Land Cress, Spring Cress, Hoary Bittercress, Shot Weed, Flick Weed
Scientific Name Cardamine hirsuta
Season Start Jan
Season End Dec
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.


Small, green and rounded growing in opposite pairs along the leaf stem with one single, usually larger, finishing or terminal leaf at the end.


Tiny, delicate, white, four petaled flowers growing in small groups at the top of a vertical stem.

Seed Pods

Rather like small green straight pea pods that turn to red/brown on maturity.


Occurs on bare soil, light grass, cracks in paths and growing on walls. It is a very common plant. It will grow just about anywhere and does not need much light.

Possible Confusion

Other edible Cardamines. There are similar plants, but nothing dangerous, so the way to find out if you have Hairy Bitter Cress is to have a little nibble.


This plant tastes like cress crossed with rocket and is one of our favourite edibles. Great for salads, salsa, pestos and anywhere you would use cress raw, cooking, unfortunately, seems to remove the flavour.


Very common.


The leaves are the only parts we collect, they are quite small but usually grow in groups so a few leaf stems from each plant in an area will usually suffice for a meal.

Uprooting plants is not allowed on common land in the UK but if you have permission to, this plant will do very well in a bowl of water on your window sill and with the flower stems removed as they appear, will keep producing leaves in abundance.

Other Facts

It has a 12 week lifecycle so if left undisturbed a patch can grow quite substancially in a year. This species grows to no more than 30 centimetres tall.
The thin seedpods are about 3 centimetres long, and explode when ripe flinging the seeds to new ground.
This plant is a member of the mustard family Brassicaceae.


9 comments for Hairy Bittercress

  1. Mrs S M Miller says:

    I would like to know which birds like to eat the seed pods of hairy bittercress. I have partridges and pigeons visiting my garden and would be interested to know, if you know. One item on the internet mentions ‘finches and other birds’. Do you have this information to let me know?

  2. buzz magister says:

    I was just weeding and thought i’d washed my hands but clearly not enough . I made the mistake of rubbing my eye and have had the most uncomfortable couple of hours flushing my eye with saltwater . I nearly went to the hospital as it felt so incredibly painful . If you touch this stuff please scrub your hands and do not touch your eye . Beelzebub couldn’t have come up with a more painful experience . Sorry a Black Adder reference seemed appropriate .

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I’ve not heard of this before but I bow to your experience as it’s not something I have tried to do.

  3. Pete M says:

    Thanks for the info. I was just out in the garden, this stuff is always shooting up all over the place so I was just starting to clear it out. Anyhow, I don’t know why, but I decided to have a nibble on a bit of it (stupid I know without knowing what it was, but hey ho) and I thought it tasted a bit like rocket and it tasted nice. So came inside and googled it. Came across your site and I find that it is in fact Hairy Bittercress, phew. Anyway it’ll be staying put now and I’ll be enjoying it in my salads. It’s sure to be a good combo with eggs. Thanks for the info.

  4. Mary Rosenfeld says:

    Very descriptive and charming comments with the photos – nicely done! I wanted to email this article to a friend – one of us doesn’t use FB, instagram or twitter – so could you kindly include an email way of sending this along to someone? Almost everyone uses email! Thank you!
    And thanks for this great site! I’m in the US, and we don’t do as good a job with nature descriptions and insights as you do in the UK.
    Mary R.

  5. Eleanor Moss says:

    This grows in my garden and if I tilt the pots up against the side of the coop my chickens will peck at the flowers and leaves at the top, leaving me the leaves further down, so everyone is a winner. As someone else mentioned, it goes well with eggs!

  6. Leeann says:

    I’ve been trying to look how to store it but I can’t find anything l anywhere. can it be stored for future use?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Hairy Bittercress does not store well, it is best picked fresh as it soon loses its punchy taste. It should be available all year and is very common. One way of making the most of it is to uproot a small rosette that hasn’t yet produced a flower spike, place it in a saucer of water in a sunny windowsill and pinch out any flower stems that appear, that way you will end up with a tightly packed ‘ball’ of leaves that are easy to pick in quantity.

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