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Tropaeolum majus - L.

Common Name Nasturtium, Indian Cress
Family Tropaeolaceae
USDA hardiness 8-11
Known Hazards Avoid for infants or small children and patients with gastrointestinal ulcers or kidney disease. Irritation of the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract [301].
Habitats Coastal and disturbed areas from sea level to 3000 metres.
Range S. America - Peru. A garden escape, locally naturalized in parts Europe[50].
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium, Indian Cress

Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium, Indian Cress


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Bloom Color: Orange, Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Early fall, Late summer, Mid summer. Form: Rounded, Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Tropaeolum majus is a PERENNIAL CLIMBER growing to 3.5 m (11ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cardamindum majus. Tropaeolum elatum. Tropaeolum hortense. Trophaeum majus.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Oil  Seed  Seedpod
Edible Uses: Condiment  Oil

Leaves - raw[2, 7, 14, 15, 27, 37]. A hot watercress flavour[183]. Very nice on its own or as a flavouring in mixed salads[K]. Rich in vitamin C[201]. The leaves are available from early summer until the first frosts of the autumn[K]. Flowers - raw[2, 7, 14, 27, 37, 183]. A very ornamental and tasty addition to the salad bowl, the flowers have a hot watercress flavour and are available all through the summer[7, K]. The flowers contain about 130mg vitamin C per 100g[218]. Young seed pods - raw[2, 14, 15, 27, 37]. These are even hotter than the flowers or leaves[K]. They can also be harvested whilst immature and pickled for use as a caper substitute[183, 238]. Seed - raw or cooked[105]. Very hot[K]. The mature seed can be ground into a powder and used as a pepper substitute[183]. The seed contains 26% protein and 10% oil[218].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antibacterial  Antibiotic  Antifungal  Antiseptic  Aperient  Depurative  Diuretic  Emmenagogue  
Expectorant  Laxative  Stimulant  Urinary  Vitamin C

Nasturtium has long been used in Andean herbal medicine as a disinfectant and wound-healing herb, and as an expectorant to relieve chest conditions[254]. All parts of the plant appear to be antibiotic and an infusion of the leaves can be used to increase resistance to bacterial infections and to clear nasal and bronchial catarrh[254]. The remedy seems to both reduce catarrh formation and stimulate the clearing and coughing up of phlegm[254]. The leaves are antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, aperient, depurative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, laxative and stimulant[7, 21, 238]. A glycoside found in the plant reacts with water to produce an antibiotic[238]. The plant has antibiotic properties towards aerobic spore forming bacteria[61]. Extracts from the plant have anticancer activity[218]. The plant is taken internally in the treatment of genito-urinary diseases, respiratory infections, scurvy and poor skin and hair conditions[238]. Externally it makes an effective antiseptic wash and is used in the treatment of baldness, minor injuries and skin eruptions[238]. Any part of the plant can be used, it is harvested during the growing season and used fresh[238]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium for urinary tract infections, cough, bronchitis (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Insecticide  Oil  Repellent

The seeds yield a high percentage of a drying oil that can be used in making paints, varnish etc[7]. The growing plant attracts aphids away from other plants. Research indicates that aphids flying over plants with orange or yellow flowers do not stop, nor do they prey on plants growing next to or above the flowers[201]. An insecticide can be made from an infusion of leaves and soap flakes[201].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Container, Ground cover, Specimen, Woodland garden. Tolerates most soils[202], though it prefers a rich light well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade[14, 15, 37]. More and lusher leaves are produced when the plant is growing in a rich soil, though less flowers are produced[238]. When grown in a soil of low fertility the leaves are smaller and less lush, though more flowers are produced[200, K] The plant will also succeed in very poor soils[202]. It dislikes drought[37]. This species is not frost hardy in Britain but it is often grown in the flower garden as an annual when it will frequently self-sow[37]. In cold springs, however, the seed will often not germinate until mid or even late summer, which is too late to produce a reasonable crop[K]. A very ornamental and free-flowering species, it is often in bloom from early summer until cut down by the autumn frosts[K]. A climbing plant, it supports itself by twisting its leaf stalks around other plants etc[219]. There are many named varieties, some of which are low-growing forms that do not climb[183, 202, K]. The flowers have a very pleasing mild scent[245]. The Gleam Hybrid cultivars are more strongly scented[245]. A good companion plant in the garden, growing well with radishes, cabbages and fruit trees, improving their growth and flavour[14, 20]. A good companion for many plants, keeping many harmful insects at bay and also improving the growth and flavour of neighbouring crops[201]. Aphids on nasturtiums indicate a lime deficiency in the soil[20]. Slugs and snails love eating this plant, so it can be grown to attract them away from other plants[201]. The caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly can be a nuisance and often cause considerable damage to the leaves[219]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Edible, Not North American native, Suitable for cut flowers, Fragrant flowers.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow April in situ. The seed usually germinates within 2 weeks. Seed can also be sown in March in pots in a greenhouse and planted out in late spring or early summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Tropaeolum brachyceras Perennial Climber1.0 8-11  LMHNDM10 
Tropaeolum leptophyllum Perennial Climber1.5 7-10  LMNM20 
Tropaeolum minusDwarf NasturtiumPerennial0.3 8-11  LMNM432
Tropaeolum patagonicum Perennial0.2 -  LMHNMWe30 
Tropaeolum sessilifolium Perennial Climber3.0 8-11  LMHNDM30 
Tropaeolum tricolorum Perennial Climber1.5 7-10  LMHNM20 
Tropaeolum tuberosumMashua, AnuPerennial Climber2.0 7-10 MLMNM422

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Detailed plant profile about this plant species in Malta which is considered as a new invasive plant especially in habitats close to water courses.   Aug 19 2010 12:00AM

Wild Plants of Malta

   Nov 21 2014 12:00AM

The Wikipedia pages on Tropaeolum and lutein says the flowers a very high lutein content of 45 millgrams per 100 grams. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropaeolum Reference on https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutein is Niizu, P.Y.; Delia B. Rodriguez-Amaya (2005). "Flowers and Leaves of Tropaeolum majus L. as Rich Sources of Lutein". Journal of Food Science 70 (9): S605–S609. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2005.tb08336.x. ISSN 1750-3841.

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