Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Rorippa Sp. - Yellow Cress

Family: Mustard - Brassicaceae

Annual to perennial herb, occasionally with caudex or rhizome; hairs simple or 0. Stem: prostrate to erect, branched or not, leafy. Leaf: basal rosetted or not, simple, entire or dentate to 1–3-pinnately divided; cauline petioled or sessile, generally lobed to sagittate at base, entire to dentate or pinnately lobed. Inflorescence: elongated or congested; bracts 0 [rarely throughout]. Flower: sepals erect to spreading, base not sac-like, generally deciduous (persistent); petals present (vestigial or 0), yellow [white or pink], generally not clawed. Fruit: silique, linear or narrowly oblong, or silicle, spheric to ovoid or broadly oblong; dehiscent, unsegmented; stigma entire or ± 2-lobed. Seed: 10–300, 1(2) row(s) per chamber, generally wingless.
85 species: worldwide, on all continents except Antarctica. (Latinized Old Saxon: for these or perhaps other crucifers) [Al-Shehbaz & Price 1998 Novon 8:124–126] Other taxa in TJM (1993) moved to Nasturtium.
Unabridged references: [Stuckey 1972 Sida 4:277–340]

Local Species;

  1. Rorippa curvipes - bluntleaf yellowcress [E-flora]
  2. Rorippa curvisiliqua - western yellow cress [E-flora]
  3. Rorippa microphylla - one-rowed water cress (now Nasturtium microphyllum) [E-flora]
  4. Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum - common water cress (now Nasturtium officinale) [E-flora]
  5. Rorippa palustris - marsh yellow cress [E-flora]
  6. Rorippa sylvestris - creeping yellow cress [E-flora]
  7. Rorippa tenerrima - yellow cress [E-flora]


Uses of Rorippa Sp.

Species Mentioned;

R. islandica

Edible Uses


Young greens occasionally gathered and cooked with fish by Eskimo of Alaska.
R. palustris; The young leaves, stems and young seedlings can be eaten raw in salads or cooked[2, 46, 61, 144, 183]. A good watercress substitute[183].[PFAF-1] Occasionally gathered in June and cooked with fish in water.[Oswalt Eskimo]

Rorippa curvisiliqua var. curvisiliqua, Curvepod Yellowcress - Food-Paiute Unspecified Species used for food. (as Radicula curvi- siliqua 167:242) [NAETh Moerman]

Medicinal Uses

Rorippa palustris ssp. hispida (Desv.) Jonsell, Hispid Yellowcress - Drug-Navajo, Ramah Ceremonial Medicine and Eye Medicine Plant used in ceremonial eyewash. (as R. hispida 191:29) [NAEth Moerman]^'

Rorippa sylvestris (L.) Bess., Creeping Yellowcress - Drug-Iroquois Febrifuge and Pediatric Aid Decoction of plant tak- en by mother for fever in baby. (87:342) [NAEth Moerman]


R. palustris; Antiscorbutic[152]. [PFAF-1]


Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum - Common water cress (now Nasturtium officinale)

Another special wild mustard is watercress (Nasturtium officinale), adapted to fresh running water. You can find it forming dense mats along streams, in springs, and in shallow pools of running water throughout the United States. It looks like the watercress you get in the store, but it's much better-tasting-more pungent (nasturtium means "nose-twister"), and less bitter. The delicate, dark-green, alternate leaves are from 1 1/2 to 6 inches long. They're divided into lobes, with a large leading lobe at the tip, and three to eleven pairs of progressively smaller lobes continuing along the midrib. Many white, stalked flowers grow in long, narrow clusters. Each flower is only 1/3 inch across. The fruits are narrow, slender capsules, about inch long. The base of the plant is covered with fine, white roots. [Wildman]

"Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate. See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 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: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers wet soil and can grow in water." [PFAF]

"Habitat / Range Watercress is a native to the Mediterranean region and Europe. It is found growing in slow streams, along riverbanks, in roadside ditches, and in swamps over the entire United States and throughout most of the world." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Exotic [E-flora]


Never eat wild watercress raw unless you've had the water tested. Otherwise, you risk serious infection by pathogenic microorganisms. I've had the water tested in a freshwater spring I visit, and I've been collecting watercress (and drinking the water) for a decade. [Wildman]

"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]." [PFAF]

Edible Uses

Along with dandelions and lambs'-quarters, watercress is one of the world's most nutritious vegetables, excellent for convalescence. It's an outstanding source of beta carotene, iron, and calcium. It also contains vitamin C, bioflavonoids, vitamins E, B1, and B2, and the minerals; phosphorus, sodium, iodine, manganese, sulfur, zinc, copper, cobalt, and vanadium.[Wildman]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

Hippocrates used watercress as a stimulant and expectorant. It's been used for coughs and bronchitis for hundreds of years. Cooked and pureed, watercress also acts as a gentle diuretic: It's good for the kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract, and by relieving fluid retention, it helps the heart. You can also puree it with sea salt and apply it externally, for gout and arthritis. Watercress even relieves indigestion and dispels gas.[Wildman]

"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]." [PFAF]

Nutritional Information

An analysis of 100 grams [of greens] shows 151 milligrams of calcium, 54 milligrams of phosphorus, 52 milligrams of sodium, 282 milligrams of potassium, 4,900 international units of vitamin A, and 790 milligrams of vitamin C.

Watercress – Nasturtium officinale [218] [PFAF] Part: Leaves Per 100 g fresh weight
  • Calories 19
  • Riboflavin (mg)0.16
  • Phosphorus (mg)54
  • Water 93.30%
  • Niacin (mg)0.9
  • Sodium (mg)52
  • Protein (g)2.2
  • Vitamin C (mg)79
  • Potassium (mg)282
  • Fat (g)0.3
  • Ash (g)1.2
  • Iron (mg)1.7
  • Carbohydrate (g)3
  • Thiamine (mg)0.08
  • Vitamin A (mg)2940
  • Fiber (g)0.7
  • Calcium (mg)151


Fish Habitat: It's a favorite of fishermen because it provides a hiding-place for trout, and a home for the invertebrates that trout eat. [Wildman]

Watercress is not native to the United States. Anytime you find it, you know someone probably ate a watercress sandwich somewhere along the waterway, and got sloppy. Whenever you collect it, let a few pieces with roots fall back to the water. The plant propagates vegetatively, so it will float downstream and start new stands.[Wildman]

"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. For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a runner spreading indefinitely by rhizomes or stolons [1-2]. The root pattern is fibrous dividing into a large number of fine roots [1-2]." [PFAF]


" 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." [PFAF]



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