Up to 10 inches high
Southern and central Missouri
Most common in and around the cold waters of springs and spring branches, watercress is also found in fens, marshes, and ditches. Botanists have long pondered its origins. For a long time, people pointed to watercress’s presence at remote spring branches as evidence that it is native. However, those locations were not as pristine as formerly believed. Today most agree that it is in fact an old-world species that was introduced to North America.
Watercress is part of the mustard family. In fact, “cress” is used for a variety of edible, peppery plants in the mustard family. Watercress has a tangy flavor and is used as a salad green. Collect it in the wild from reputable sources, but wash it thoroughly before eating it.
Watercress is a perennial aquatic plant that grows even during the winter submerged in, floating on, or emerging from water. It is a lush green plant, often forming bushy colonies. Its flowers, small and white, bloom between April and October.
Humans are not the only ones to eat watercress. Fish, birds, and mammals nibble its greens, as do numerous aquatic insects, snails, and more. It often hosts masses of aphids.
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