Weed of the Week: Hairy Bittercress

Hairy Bittercress weed

Hairy Bittercress weed

About Hairy Bittercress

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsute), is a winter and summer annual that germinates from seed during cool moist conditions, like spring and fall. It is a prolific seed producer that explodes at the slightest touch, sending tiny seeds flying in all directions when the seedpods mature. Once established, it is VERY difficult to eradicate.

Hairy Bittercress is a member of the mustard family (Cruciferae) with a flat rosette of leaves that produces small white, four-petal flowers. One tiny flower can produce up to 600 seeds, enough to take over a garden. It likes to grow in disturbed soil in sunny, damp areas. If allowed to go to seed, bittercress can quickly become a menace in walkways, garden beds and lawns.

Click here to view video of bittercress seed pods popping


Controlling Hairy Bittercress

Hairy bittercress seed pods

Hairy bittercress seed pods

Hairy bittercress is easy to pull by hand. Pull it before it has a chance to flower or set seed. Or, you can cut off the tops of young seedlings with a hoe and remove them from the soil surface.

Apply mulch after weeding to prevent further germination.

If you prefer to use an organic herbicide, horticultural vinegar with a small amount of orange oil will top-kill bittercress. It does not kill the roots, so it’s most effective on young, germinating plants, otherwise it may take a couple of applications spaced out 1-2 weeks apart.

Benefits of Hairy Bittercress

Bittercress adds a peppery accent to salads

Bittercress adds a peppery accent to salads

Hairy bittercress is an edible, bitter herb that can provide a peppery addition to salads. Like all members of the mustard family, it is loaded with nutrients.

Stay Vigilant

During late fall and spring (when bittercress is starting to germinate) we recommend going on patrol once or twice a week for this pesky weed. They grow quickly so get to them before the seeds pop or you’ll be cursing the little buggers for seasons to come.

Bill Grundmann

Bill is the owner of Organic Plant Care, LLC. He takes an integrated approach to tree care, focusing not only on the trees themselves but also on the surrounding environment, managing tree health from the "ground up" - healthy soil equals healthy plants. Bill is a New Jersey Licensed Tree Expert and NJ Approved Forester with over 35 years of experience in the tree care industry.