From early March through May many Pittsylvania County fields are aglow with scattered brilliant yellow flowers of the Early Winter Cress (Barbarea verna). Its pungent-tasting leaves may be used as salad, seasoning, or garnishing. It is also known as Scurvy Grass. Early Winter Cress has basal leaves with 8 to 20 lateral lobes. Closely following this species, the Common Winter Cress or Yellow Rocket (Barbarea vulgaris) generally blooms in April thru August, and has 2-8 lateral lobes as illustrated in the accompanying picture. Its young leaves may be cooked as greens or eaten as salad.
Oftentimes this species shows up in many of our fields as bright patches of yellow. In some situations farmers and owners of livestock consider these two species as noxious weeds — and rightly so! On close inspection these winter cress plants may easily be distinguished from the robust cultivated turnip with its yellow flowers.
Copyright © 2004 William T. Hathaway.