Barbarea vulgaris

Yellow Rocket, garden yellow rocket, wintercress, St. Barbara’s cress, rocketcress, bittercress

Description: winter annual, or biennial, or perennial

Place of origin: Eurasia

Urban habitat: thrives in disturbed soils, common in minimally maintained landscapes, vacant lots, rubble dumps, highway banks, unmowed grasslands; can grow in semi-shaded and fully shaded areas.

Ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer of bare ground, attractive to a variety of wildlife.

History: Barbarea vulgaris was named after St. Barbara, as the plant was once known as her herb probably because it emerged around the time of her feast day in December. It is naturally resistant to some insect species, while containing chemicals attractive to the cabbage white butterfly and is currently found in Northeast, Midwest, in many Western states, and across most of Canada. B. vulgaris has been found useful for medicinal purposes: the leaves have been used as a poultice for treating wounds, and a tea made from its leaves stimulates appetite and acts as a diuretic and scurvy preventative. Its young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and its young stems harvested before flowers open can be cooked like broccoli.