common winter cress (Barbarea vulgaris)
garden yellow rocket
Barbarea arcuata (Opiz ex J. Presl & C. Presl) Rchb.
Barbarea stricta auct. non Andrz.
Barbarea vulgaris W.T. Aiton var. arcuata (Opiz ex J. Presl & C. Presl)
Barbarea vulgaris W.T. Aiton var. brachycarpa Rouy & Foucaud
Barbarea vulgaris W.T. Aiton var. longisiliquosa Carion
Barbarea vulgaris W.T. Aiton var. sylvestris Fr.
Campe barbarea (L.) W. Wight ex Piper
Campe stricta auct. non (Andrz.) W. Wight ex Piper
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of common
winter cress is Barbarea vulgaris W.T. Aiton.
NATIVE STATUS: Introduced, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This adventive biennial plant is 1–2½' tall. During the first year it
forms a rosette of basal leaves up to 1' across, while during the second
year it bolts upward with one or more flowering stalks. These stalks are
hairless, stout, light green to reddish purple, and somewhat angular or
ridged. Secondary stalks are produced in the upper half of the plant.
Leaves: The basal leaves are up to 6" long and 2½" across. They are odd
pinnate with 1-4 pairs of lateral lobes and a terminal lobe that is larger
than the others. These lobes are oval, obovate, or nearly orbicular, and
they have margins that are slightly undulate or bluntly dentate. The alter-
nate cauline lines are sessile or clasp the stems. The lower to middle
cauline leaves resemble the basal leaves, except that they are smaller and
have fewer lateral lobes. The upper cauline leaves are up to 2" long and 1"
across; their margins are shallowly lobed, undulate, or bluntly dentate.
Both the basal and cauline leaves are dark green, hairless, and shiny on
the upper surface.
Flowers: The upper stems terminate in racemes of yellow flowers. The
flowers bloom toward the apex of each raceme, while the seedpods
(siliques) develop below. Each flower is about 1/3" across, consisting of
4 yellow petals, 4 yellowish green sepals that are linear- lanceolate, 6 sta-
mens with pale yellow to light brown anthers, and a single pistil with a
thick stigma. A robust plant will produce these flowers in great abundance
and they are mildly fragrant.
Fruit/Seeds: Each flower is replaced by an angular-cylindrical seedpod
about 1" long. The base of the seedpod is connected to a short slender
pedicel, while at the other end it terminates in a short slender beak. These seedpods or siliques are spreading to ascending along the racemes. The
seeds are ovoid, slightly flattened, and more or less brown.
Roots: The root system consists of a stout taproot. This plant spreads by
reseeding itself, and it occasionally forms colonies.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Common winter cress propogates itself
HABITAT TYPES: Common winter cress is a native to Eurasia. Habitats
include cropland, fallow fields, vacant lots, construction sites, gardens,
moist meadows, areas along roadsides and railroads, and waste areas.
Highly disturbed areas are preferred; sometimes this species occurs in
natural areas that are slightly degraded (including prairie restorations),
but it is not particularly invasive.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Common winter cress prefers full sun,
moist to mesic conditions, and a fertile loam or clay-loam soil. Growth is
less robust at drier sites with poor soil. A little shade is also tolerated.
Most vegetative growth occurs during the cool weather of early to mid-
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from mid-
spring to early summer and lasts about a month (peaking during late
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Common winter cress is found through-
out most of continental United States and Canada, with the exception of
the lower Gulf states (Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas) and the extreme
southwest (Arizona and Nevada). It also does not naturally grow in Alaska
or the northern Canadian territories.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The nectar and pollen of the flowers of
Barbarea vulgaris attract small bees and flies primarily. Occasionally,
white butterflies can be observed sucking nectar from the flowers. The
caterpillars of white butterflies and some Pyralid moths feed on the
foliage, including Pontia protodice (checkered white), Pieris rapae
(cabbage white), Eustixia pupula (Pyralid moth sp.), and Evergestis
pallidata (purple-backed cabbageworm). The seeds are a minor source
of food to mourning doves, while the foliage is eaten readily by cattle
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