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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Barbarea vulgaris R. Br.

Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Common Name:

winter cress, yellow rocket

05/24/1999

Winter cress is an introduced Eurasian biennial that is now a very common weed of roadsides, meadows, mudflats or any disturbed area, whether dry or moist. The plants grow up to 0.5 m tall.

Yellow flowers bloom in spring from May to early June. Like all mustards, the flowers have 4 petals, each bent outward in the middle forming a cross; and 6 stamens, 4 long and 2 short. The petals are 4 to 8 mm long. The seeds form in a 2 to 3 cm linear capsule (silique). Also like most mustards (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) its sharp taste is due to sulfur absorbed from the soil and metabolized into an oil in the leaf and seed tissue.

Foliage is dark green and glossy.  The basal leaves are pinnate with a large rounded terminal lobe; upper leaves are oval and clasp the stem.

Winter cress is similar to the equally common and invasive Wild Mustard (Brassica kaber), also with yellow flowers. Wild Mustard is a summer blooming annual whose upper leaves are toothed but not lobed and the leaves donít clasp the stem.

  • Origin of the name: Barbarea, after St. Barbara; vulgaris, L. vulgaris, common, ordinary
  • Range:  N. Temperate Zone
  • WI Range:  Common throughout southern WI; locally north to Bayfield and Iron Counties
  • Common associates: Brome grass, kentucky bluegrass, wild carrot, ragweed
  • Wetland Indicator Status: FAC
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C = * (S&W), C = * (MI)
     
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