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Wavy Bitter-cress

The wavy or zigzag stems gives this plant its taxonomy, as ‘flexuosa’ means ‘full of bends’ in Latin. It is usually a perennial plant, though short-lived, which grows in moist and shady places throughout most of Scotland, but most common in the West Highlands. Though it can grow anywhere from inner city waste ground to country verges, it is most commonly found in gardens, one of the first weeds to appear after turning over the topsoil.

The leaves grow as a rosette mostly at the base of the plant, with roundly lobed leaves on short hairy stems. This is slightly confusing as its near-relation, Hairy Bitter-cress (Cardamine hirsuta) has fewer hairs on the stems, and more on the leaves.  Leaves are pinnate with one large terminal leaflet.

It has tiny white flowers – 4mm across, with 4 petals.  Each flower has 6 small white stamens, which helps in identification. Hairy Bitter-cress usually has only 4.

This plant is one of the more edible members of the cabbage family, and has been used in many tribal scenarios, and as a wild food. Both Hairy and Wavy Bittercress have an identical flavour and both closely resemble the taste of Cress. The adjunct ‘bitter’ is not true and does the plant a disservice.

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