By indexer
178 days ago

Winter-cress

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Winter-cress (Barbarea vulgaris) is commonly found growing alongside streams and in ditches in much of Britain, but is rarer in Scotland. It prefers damp environments but will also grow as a wayside plant and in hedgerows. It is also known as landcress to distinguish it from watercress.

Winter-cress sends up erect branching stems to a maximum height of 36 inches (90 centimetres). The leaves are shiny, the lower ones being deeply lobed and the upper ones grasping the stem.

The small yellow flowers, which appear from May to August, grow in dense clusters that elongate as the stem grows and seed-pods form. The seed-pods are long and narrow, being held away from the stem on short stalks.

The leaves of winter-cress are edible and are a good source of vitamin C. However, the taste is on the bitter side and, in Britain at least, most people prefer to eat cultivated watercress instead.

The botanical name “Barbarea” is in honour of St Barbara. This is partly because the plant is still green and prominent on 4th December, which is St Barbara’s Day. However, the name may also derive from the fact that winter-cress leaves provide a measure of relief to sufferers of wounds caused by explosions, as might be encountered by miners and quarrymen, of whom St Barbara is the patron saint.