The Bad Actors of Spring-Hairy Bittercress

Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus)

Spring is here, and the early bulbs are coming up in the northeast-snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis),winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), crocus and glories-othesnow (Chionodoxa luciliae).

Inside, beating them to it, my Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) bloomed,  and my Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), with it’s typical idiosyncratic timing,  is setting bud.

I even have an orchid heading for the stars for the second time-a personal best, since I usually murder them shortly after their first bloom.

But this post isn’t about the Good Guys. There are many lovely gardening blogs that can help you with that  (check out my latest favorite for some good info on snowdrop species). Closely following the first warm rain, my mood turns dark as I embark on the Search and Destroy missions of spring, starting with hairy bittercress.

Cardamine hirsuta seed pods

Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is  winter annual with small, white blooms. Like any annual, it lives a year, but unlike typical annuals you might think of, it’s year begins in fall when it sprouts and forms a rosette of leaves. It then over winters, and when spring comes, it’s up and ready to flower before most plants have poked out a leaf.

And when you are on your knees weeding, a poke in the eye is what you’ll get once it goes to seed. The ripe capsules (siliqua) explode at a touch, shooting thousands of seeds as far as three feet.

An early start, quick germination with multiple generations in a season and all those seeds is what makes this such a successful invasive.  Hand-weeding and mowing are attack strategies, but don’t mow the lawn too short or you’ll be hampering the competition.

Yes, it’s in the mustard family and yes, you can eat the leaves..Eat the garlic mustard,too, while you’re at it.

Next on the hit list: Lesser celandine