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Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum - R.Br.

Common Name Watercress
Family Brassicaceae or Cruciferae
USDA hardiness 3-11
Known Hazards Whilst the plant is very wholesome and nutritious, some care should be taken if harvesting it from the wild. Any plants growing in water that drains from fields where animals, particularly sheep, graze should not be used raw. This is due to the risk of it being infested with the liver fluke parasite[5, 244]. Cooking the leaves, however, will destroy any parasites and render the plant perfectly safe to eat[244]. May inhibit the metabolism of paracetamol [301].
Habitats Stream margins, ditches, flushes etc with moving water[17, 27], usually in chalk or limestone areas[52].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Sweden and Denmark south and east to N. Africa and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Wet Soil Water Plants Full sun
Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum Watercress


Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum Watercress

 

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Summary

Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Spreading or horizontal, Variable spread.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to October, and the seeds ripen from July to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees, flies. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers wet soil and can grow in water.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum. (L.)Hayek. Sisymbrium nasturtium-aquaticum.

Habitats

Edible Uses

Leaves - raw or cooked[2, 5, 7, 9, 16, 27]. Water cress is mainly used as a garnish or as an addition to salads, the flavour is strong with a characteristic hotness[183]. It has a reputation as a spring tonic, and this is its main season of use, though it can be harvested for most of the year and can give 10 pickings annually[238]. Some caution is advised if gathering the plant from the wild, see the notes above on toxicity. The leaves are exceptionally rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron[200]. A nutritional analysis is available[218]. The seed can be sprouted and eaten in salads[183]. A hot mustardy flavour[K]. The seed is ground into a powder and used as a mustard[46, 183]. The pungency of mustard develops when cold water is added to the ground-up seed - an enzyme (myrosin) acts on a glycoside (sinigrin) to produce a sulphur compound. The reaction takes 10 - 15 minutes. Mixing with hot water or vinegar, or adding salt, inhibits the enzyme and produces a mild but bitter mustard[238].

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.


Watercress is very rich in vitamins and minerals, and has long been valued as a food and medicinal plant[254]. Considered a cleansing herb, its high content of vitamin C makes it a remedy that is particularly valuable for chronic illnesses[254]. The leaves are antiscorbutic, depurative, diuretic, expectorant, purgative, hypoglycaemic, odontalgic, stimulant and stomachic[4, 7, 9, 21, 46, 222, 238]. The plant has been used as a specific in the treatment of TB[4]. The freshly pressed juice has been used internally and externally in the treatment of chest and kidney complaints, chronic irritations and inflammations of the skin etc[9]. Applied externally, it has a long-standing reputation as an effective hair tonic, helping to promote the growth of thick hair[244]. A poultice of the leaves is said to be an effective treatment for healing glandular tumours or lymphatic swellings[244]. Some caution is advised, excessive use of the plant can lead to stomach upsets[9, 21]. The leaves can be harvested almost throughout the year and are used fresh[238].

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Other Uses

The juice of the plant is a nicotine solvent and is used as such on strong tobaccos[7].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Container. Watercress is easily grown when given the correct conditions of slowly flowing clean water, preferably coming from chalky or limestone soils[264]. It prefers to grow in water about 5cm deep[37] with an optimum pH 7.2[200]. Plants can be grown in wet soil if the position is somewhat shaded and protection is given in winter, though the flavour may be hotter[27, 37]. Hardy to about -15°c[200]. Watercress is often cultivated for its edible leaves, there are some named varieties[16, 183]. The plant is very sensitive to pollution so a clean source of water is required[200]. Plants will often continue to grow all through mild winters. A fast-growing plant, the stems trail along the ground or float in water and produce new roots at the leaf nodes, thus making the plant very easy to propagate vegetatively[238]. Unfortunately, virus diseases have become more common in cultivated plants and so most propagation is carried out by seed[264]. This is a diploid species. It has hybridised naturally in the wild with the triploid species N. microphyllum to produce the sterile hybrid N. x sterilis which is also commonly cultivated as a salad crop[264]. The flowers are a rich source of pollen and so are very attractive to bees[7]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Edible, Not North American native, Wetlands plant, Flower characteristics are unknown.

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Propagation

Seed - sow spring in a pot emmersed to half its depth in water. Germination should take place within a couple of weeks. Prick out seedlings into individual pots whilst they are still small and increase the depth of water gradually until they are submerged. Plant out into a pond in the summer. Cuttings can be taken at any time in the growing season. Virtually any part of the plant, including a single leaf, will form roots if detached from the parent plant[56]. Just put it in a container of water until the roots are well formed and then plant out in shallow water.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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 NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Rorippa amphibiaGreat Yellow Cress30
Rorippa globosaGlobe yellowcress10
Rorippa indica 21
Rorippa palustrisYellow Marsh Cress, Bog yellowcress, Hispid yellowcress, Western bog yellowcress21

 

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Author

R.Br.

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