Controlling wintercress in your garden or fields is only necessary if you consider it to be a weed. This spring-blooming, tall, yellow flower is related to mustard and broccoli and is one of the first blooms you’ll see in the spring. While many consider this plant to be a weed, it isn’t harmful unless it is crowding out something else you’re trying to grow.
Is Wintercress a Weed?
Wintercress, or yellow rocket, is not classified as a weed in most states. However, any individual landowner, farmer, or gardener may consider it a weed. If you don’t want it in your garden or on your property, you probably would classify wintercress as a weed.
Wintercress is a perennial or biennial plant in the mustard family. It is native to Europe and Asia but is now found across much of the U.S. and Canada. The plants can grow up to three feet (one meter) tall. They produce clusters of small, bright yellow flowers in spring.
Yellow rocket prefers soil that is moist and rich. You may see it growing along streams, in disturbed areas, in pastures and meadows, and along roads and railroad tracks.
If you’re dealing with wintercress in the garden, you can remove the plants by hand or even mowing. Just be sure to use these mechanical methods early, before the flowers have time to produce seeds and propagate. For chemical control, use a post-emergent herbicide. The best time to apply it is in the fall.
Weedy wintercress isn’t all bad, of course. There is some evidence it could be used as a trap plant for certain damaging moths that feed on cruciferous vegetables. Growing near a vegetable garden, the wintercress acts like a trap, drawing these pests away from veggies.
Wintercress weeds also serve as food for wildlife. Bees gather pollen from the flowers and birds enjoy the seeds. The early leaves are edible and can be used as salad greens, but they are fairly bitter. You can also eat the flower buds, which are a little like broccoli. The flavors are strong, so if trying wintercress, cook it first.