Where Did THAT Come From?

hairy bittercress

Hairy bittercress

By Joyce Giuliani, Fairfax Master Gardener
This month, as you celebrate the return of your early spring garden, you may encounter a weedy, uninvited guest: hairy bittercress. A member of the mustard family, hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta), is also known as lambscress, springcress, flickweed and shotweed. No matter what you call it, though, it is usually not a welcome sight in lawns and gardens.

What to look for

Hairy bittercress is a winter annual, emerging as a basal rosette with rounded leaves. The “hairy” attribute can be found on the lower leaves of the young plant. Two or four pairs of alternating round leaflets occur along a stem. A reddish-purple stalk emerges near the base, becoming greener as it grows up to 12 inches tall. Over a three-week period, small, white flowers appear on the stalk, followed by an-inch-long, cigar-shaped seedpod. When wind gusts or you or another creature disturb the plant, the pod erupts in a fireworks display. It shoots hundreds of seeds as far as 10 feet from the parent plant in hopes of preserving its kind in your yard (hence, the alternate name, shotweed).

How did it get here?