If you’ve seen a new weed popping up in the lawn and in your flower beds the past few seasons with pretty white flowers, chances are it’s Hairy Bittercress, which was once uncommon in Ohio. This broad-leaf winter annual has been invading Ohio for the past decade. More noticeably for us, it’s really picked up steam in NE Ohio over the last few years.

Hairy Bittercress clump with tiny white flowers

Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsute, is a member of the mustard family. It is native to Asia and Europe. The plant consists of a base of rosette-type leaves, typically smaller than the palm of your hand, with white flowers atop stems less than a foot tall. It is loaded with seed pods that easily explode, making it a prolific seeder that takes hold easily. This invasive plant can pop up quick this time of year in huge patches. 

What to do if your house has been invaded by Bittercress?

1. Keep it from seeding: If you see it cropping up in your lawn, be sure to keep it mowed. Mowing often will keep the plant from seeding. This is sure to decrease the likely hood of a big outbreak again next year. If these guys get tall and start popping open seed pods the problem is only going to get worse. If it has already begin to seed this would be one of the times that we would recommend you bag you clippings to try and remove the seeds from the lawn.

2. Yank it out! The good news is that Bittercress has a very shallow root. It is easy to pull and easy to get the entire root system, which lessens the chance of it re-emerging. If you have some popping up in your beds be sure to pull them out. This is always easier after a good, soaking spring rain to loosen up the soil. This is the best solution to keep small patches that can’t be mowed from going to seed.

3. Spray with natural herbicides:

 Newly developed, naturally derived, weed controls that contain iron do a good job of eradicating this problem weed. These products are now available in small spray bottles that can be used to spot spray a small numbers of weeds. If it is necessary to use a herbicide to control the outbreak these types of products are generally the best bet. 

4. If you can’t beat it, eat it! 

Bittercress is a member of the mustard family. It is edible and can be used as a bitter herb.