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Spring Cress Cardamine bulbosa


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Spring Cress
credit: SB_Johnny/CCSA

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Alternate name: Bittercress, Bulbous Bittercress

Family: Brassicaceae, Mustard view all from this family

Description Small white flowers in clusters atop smooth, erect, usually unbranched stems.
Habit: native annual or perennial herb; short, thick tubers.
Height: 8-40 in (20-100 cm)
Leaf: at base, round to heart-shaped to ovate, tip rounded, edges may be wavy but not divided or deeply toothed; long-stalked, 1-2.5 in (25-60 mm) long; on stem, 5-10 leaves, alternate, ovate to lanceolate, pointed, becoming stalkless, edges may be wavy or shallowly toothed, to 3.5 (90 mm) long, to 1.75 in (45 mm) wide.
Flower: white (rarely pale pink), 4-parted, stalked, 0.5-1 in (12-25 mm) wide, with obovate petals; held in rounded terminal cluster.
Fruit: linear pod, very thin, beaked, to 1.5 in (40 mm) long; held erect; seeds dark brown, about 1/10 inch long.

Flower March to June.

Habitat Along springs and brooks, swamps, and wet clearings; Wet grounds, low woodland, moss hummocks, alluvial woods, grassy floodplains, wet pastures, meadows, pinelands, creek bottoms, stream banks, sandy bottoms, ditches, mesic or wet forests, swamps, marshes, seepy bluffs; to 3000 ft (900 m).

Range Native to eastern and central North America, from Manitoba east to Nova Scotia, south to Florida, west to Texas, and north to North Dakota.

Discussion Also known as bulbous bittercress. Endangered in New Hampshire. This plant is a wetland indicator across its range.

Some other species in the genus are: cuckoo flower (C. pratensis), with white or pinkish flowers, and pinnately divided leaves; Pennsylvania bittercress (C. pensylvanica), with very tiny flowers, also with pinnately divided leaves; and mountain watercress (C. rotundifolia), also white-flowered, with oval leaves with tiny projections on the leafstalks.