Hairy Bittercress

runktrun(z7a MA)June 6, 2007

On another thread dtd and I were discussing the current (within the last two years) INVASION of the annual weed Cardamine hirsuta Hairy Bittercress to both of our properties. After a little poking around I learned that this weed can mature in a matter of weeks and produce seed, if it is happy (moist conditions), it can produce several generations in a season. Hairy Bittercress is usually considered an annual but if the seeds germinate in the autumn it can be biennial. Dtd learned What I read about this pest is that anyone who doesn't have it yet will, soon, at least if they buy any plants other than bare root ones. It's infested the wholesale potting soil supply and can be found at just about any nursery that buys stock from off-premises. Cold comfort, I guess, but we're all in this together, or we will be soon. I was shocked to discover in my garden this weed no older than two weeks and a total of 1" tall in flower which means that this very young plant would have been dispersing seeds in another week or so. In a very short period of time this plant has taken over my lawn, woodland, garden beds, walkways, and planters. Dtd plans on using the pre-emergent corn gluten to attack the problem but to be honest I am still in panic mode not sure what to do. My sister in Fla. who has this problem as well suggested I surrender to the mighty Bittercress and consider it a groundcover, a friend suggested that since it is eatable that I should make my fortune by becoming a Hairy Bittercress Farmer. What is your experience with this monster???

Here is a link that might be useful: Hairy Bittercress

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I'd use it as a groundcover, but when the seeds are mature it a.) is ugly and b.) positively HURLS the seeds at you when you touch it. And it seems to know how to aim for the eye, I don't know how.

I haven't been able to document it actually *killing* anything, or even compromising anything, in the garden, so I'm not panicking. I am trying to be vigilant, but I don't think this pest is going to be going away any time soon.

And, it is awfully CUTE when it's young (just like the rest of us were).

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 1:23PM
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Well, Katy, I wouldn't go buying more than one bag of the mucho expensive corn gluten. I think it does a poor job, after a lot of weeding, spreading and watering to activate the stuff.

May I suggest trying a small bag of preen and comparing results? Over the last few years preen worked very well, but I am trying to reduce chemicals, so went with corn gluten instead.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 8:38PM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

This weed has become an overwhelming pest that has over taken my lawn, woods, every border, garden, and brick walk way. I have noticed this #$%**ing weed has invaided properties throughout my community is it in your yard? Last year I tried corn gluten on the lawn and it seemed to have some impact but this year things are worse than ever. For example I am not very fussy about weeds in my lawn I also have growing dandylions, violets, ox eye daisy, and a long list of other escapees from the flower beds and frankly I think they add interest, but where the bittercress became the thickest it was able to force out the grass now I have areas that are 6Â x 8Â of dirt in between the bittercress lifecycle. My moss garden has been one of its favorite incubators where I find I need to weed constantly. This #$%**ing weed has already gone to seed this year so I can only imagine this nice warm weather has allowed for an extra lifecycle this year with an even larger invasion to deal with in 2010. Dtd seems to have this weed as well on the Cape I am wondering if anyone else is having a hard time with bittercress and what steps have you taken.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 9:07AM
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cloud_9(z5 CT)

HURLS the seeds at you when you touch it. And it seems to know how to aim for the eye, I don't know how.

LOL Nan - I have experienced the same thing. They seem to be the black flies of the plant world!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 9:22AM
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I have it, and have had it for a few years. When I took a plants class at the local university aobut 10 years ago, I'd never seen it before, but I think it came in with some horse manure I used in the veggie garden shortly after that. I hand pull it religiously. I don't know if it will make a difference in the long run as far as its presence in my yard, but it makes me feel better!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 7:11AM
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It starts blooming in mid-winter, I've noticed. On nice days I pull it, starting in January when there's really nothing else to do in the garden. Makes me feel like I'm outsmarting it; it's very satisfying.

I've read that it's ubiquitous in nursery stock, so there's just no avoiding it. When I give away plants, I warn people about it (sometimes, much to their dismay!) but I know it's going to be in everyone's garden anyway, if they buy or swap plants, so I don't feel like I need to quarantine my divisions because of this pest.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 4:01PM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

I am just wondering if there is anyone in New England that does not have an invasion of this monster in their garden?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 7:43AM
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Oh, shoot, I thought maybe you'd revived this thread to report that you'd found a cure.

I used CGM on my lawn this spring and had about a quart left when I ran out of steam with the spreader, So, put a fairly thick coating on the front of one bed, where Cardamine had been especially pestilential. I can report that that bed is virtually free of bittercress, although it's overrun with that annoying little weed that looks like thyme - the one with blue flowers. Presumably that weed had germinated in the fall, but actually I have no idea why it worked on bittercress and not on that other pest.

I have a long row of dianthus along a patio, and at the end which was full of bittercress last year the dianthus has been almost wiped out while it looks great at the other end. It's a chicken and egg situation, though, because for all I know the bittercress invaded the far end because the dianthus wasn't covering the ground well and was already in decline.

By the way, I've seen it in all the corners of my gardens now.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 9:07AM
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I asked Kt to revive this post because now that prolific, fecund stuff is in every corner. I hate it. Looking at the photos, I don't know if my pest is hairy bittercress, because mine doesn't seem hairy.

It has very soft tender small green leaves. The flower looks like small composite...daisy, maybe 1/4 inch across at most. But I can't imagine anything that is remotely as prolific as what I have and KT and dtd describe. And I've seen a lot of weeds. I'd say witchgrass of my old NH gardgen was as awful..And rhizominous to boot.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 5:15PM
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So that's who that little bugger is !!! Thanks for enlightening me. . .been yanking that stuff out for eons and always accepted it as a necessary garden
evil. And, not knowing any better, I have always been in the habit of
cleaning every pot of weeds before I leave a nursery. . .although from what
I read here, that probably wasn't 100% effective.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 7:24PM
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