Watercress or yellowcress (Nasturtium officinale) is a species of aquatic flowering plant in the cabbage family Brassicaceae.

Watercress (2).JPG
Closeup photograph of watercress inflorescence with several white flowers and many flower buds
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Nasturtium
N. officinale
Binomial name
Nasturtium officinale
  • Arabis nasturtium Clairv.
  • Baeumerta nasturtium P.Gaertn., B.Mey. & Schreb.
  • Baeumerta nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) Hayek
  • Cardamine aquatica (Garsault) Nieuwl.
  • Cardamine fontana Lam.
  • Cardamine nasturtium (Moench) Kuntze
  • Cardamine nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) Borbás
  • Cardaminum nasturtium Moench
  • Crucifera fontana E.H.L.Krause
  • Nasturtium fontanum Asch.
  • Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) H. Karst.
  • Nasturtium siifoliu] Rchb.
  • Radicula nasturtium (Moench) Druce
  • Radicula nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) Britten & Rendle
  • Rorippa nasturtium (Moench) Beck
  • Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) Hayek
  • Rorippa officinalis (W.T. Aiton) P. Royen
  • Sisymbrium amarum Salisb.
  • Sisymbrium cardaminefolium Gilib.
  • Sisymbrium fluviatile Vell.
  • Sisymbrium nasturtium (Moench) Willd.
  • Sisymbrium nasturtium-aquaticum L.

Watercress is a rapidly growing perennial plant native to Europe and Asia. It is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by humans. Watercress and many of its relatives, such as garden cress, mustard, radish, and wasabi, are noteworthy for their piquant flavors.

The hollow stems of watercress float in water. The leaf structure is pinnately compound. Small, white, and green inflorescences are produced in clusters and are frequently visited by insects, especially hoverflies, such as Eristalis flies.[3]


Watercress is listed in some sources as belonging to the genus Rorippa, although molecular evidence shows those aquatic species with hollow stems are more closely related to Cardamine than Rorippa.[4] Despite the Latin name, watercress is not particularly closely related to the flowers popularly known as nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus). T. majus belongs to the family Tropaeolaceae, a sister taxon to the Brassicaceae within the order Brassicales.[5]


In some regions, watercress is regarded as a weed,[6] in other regions as an aquatic vegetable or herb. Watercress has grown in many locations around the world.[7]

In the United Kingdom, watercress was first commercially cultivated in 1808 by the horticulturist William Bradbery along the River Ebbsfleet in Kent. Watercress is now grown in several counties of the United Kingdom, most notably Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, and Hertfordshire. The town of Alresford, near Winchester, is considered to be the nation's watercress capital.[8] It holds a Watercress Festival that brings in more than 15,000 visitors every year and a preserved steam railway line has been named after the local crop.


Watercress leaves, stems, and fruit can be eaten raw.[9]


Ancient Romans thought eating it would cure mental illness.[10] Twelfth-century mystic Hildegard of Bingen thought eating it steamed and drinking the water would cure jaundice or fever.[10] Watercress was eaten by Native Americans.[11] Some Native Americans used it to treat kidney illnesses and constipation, and it was thought by some to be an aphrodisiac.[10] Early African Americans used the plant as an abortifacient; it was believed to cause sterility as well.[10]


Watercress, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy46 kJ (11 kcal)
1.29 g
Sugars0.2 g
Dietary fiber0.5 g
0.1 g
2.3 g
Vitamin A equiv.
160 μg
1914 μg
5767 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.09 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.12 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.31 mg
Vitamin B6
0.129 mg
Folate (B9)
9 μg
Vitamin C
43 mg
Vitamin E
1 mg
Vitamin K
250 μg
120 mg
0.2 mg
21 mg
0.244 mg
60 mg
330 mg
41 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water95 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central

The new tips of watercress leaves can be eaten raw or cooked,[12] although caution should be used when collecting these in the wild because of parasites such as giardia.[13] Watercress is 95% water and has low contents of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and dietary fiber. A 100-gram serving of raw watercress provides 46 kilojoules (11 kilocalories), is particularly rich in vitamin K (238% of the Daily Value, DV), and contains significant amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, and manganese (table).

Phytochemicals and cookingEdit

As a cruciferous vegetable, watercress contains isothiocyanates that are partly destroyed by boiling, while the content of carotenoids is slightly increased. Steaming or microwave cooking retains these phytochemicals.[14]


Watercress beds in Warnford, Hampshire, England

Watercress cultivation is practical on both a large scale and a garden scale. Being semi-aquatic, watercress is well-suited to hydroponic cultivation, thriving best in water that is slightly alkaline. It is frequently produced around the headwaters of chalk streams. In many local markets, the demand for hydroponically grown watercress exceeds supply, partly because cress leaves are unsuitable for distribution in dried form and can only be stored fresh for about 2–3 days.[15]

Also sold as sprouts, the edible shoots are harvested days after germination. If unharvested, watercress can grow to a height of 50 to 120 centimetres (1 ft 8 in to 3 ft 11 in).


Watercress crops grown in the presence of manure can be an environment for parasites such as the liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica.[16] By inhibiting the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP2E1, compounds in watercress may alter drug metabolism in individuals on certain medications such as chlorzoxazone.[17]

Due to its fast-growing nature and invasive species status, Nasturtium officinale is prohibited in Illinois.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ghogue, J.-P.; Akhani, H. & Zehzad, B. (2020). "Nasturtium officinale". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T164311A136666515. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  2. ^ The Plant List, Nasturtium officinale R.Br.
  3. ^ Van Der Kooi, C. J.; Pen, I.; Staal, M.; Stavenga, D. G.; Elzenga, J. T. M. (2016). "Competition for pollinators and intra-communal spectral dissimilarity of flowers" (PDF). Plant Biology. 18 (1): 56–62. doi:10.1111/plb.12328. PMID 25754608.
  4. ^ Al-Shehbaz, Ihsan A.; Price, Robert A. (1998). "Delimitation of the Genus Nasturtium (Brassicaceae)". Novon. 8 (2): 124–6. doi:10.2307/3391978. JSTOR 3391978.
  5. ^ Fay, Michael F.; Christenhusz, Maarten J.M. (14 September 2010). "Brassicales - an Order of Plants Characterised by Shared Chemistry". Curtis's Botanical Magazine. 27 (3): 165–196. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8748.2010.01695.x.
  6. ^ "Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board". www.nwcb.wa.gov. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  7. ^ "Watercress". www.fs.fed.us. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  8. ^ Peters, Rick (30 March 2010). "Seasonal food: watercress". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  9. ^ Benoliel, Doug (2011). Northwest Foraging: The Classic Guide to Edible Plants of the Pacific Northwest (Rev. and updated ed.). Seattle, WA: Skipstone. p. 161. ISBN 978-1-59485-366-1. OCLC 668195076.
  10. ^ a b c d Lyle, Katie Letcher (2010) [2004]. The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify, and Cook Them (2nd ed.). Guilford, CN: FalconGuides. pp. 34–35. ISBN 978-1-59921-887-8. OCLC 560560606.
  11. ^ Nyerges, Christopher (2017). Foraging Washington: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Wild Foods. Guilford, CT: Falcon Guides. ISBN 978-1-4930-2534-3. OCLC 965922681.
  12. ^ Nyerges, Christopher (2016). Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America: More than 150 Delicious Recipes Using Nature's Edibles. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-4930-1499-6.
  13. ^ Blackwell, Laird R. (2006). Great Basin Wildflowers: A Guide to Common Wildflowers of the High Deserts of Nevada, Utah, and Oregon (A Falcon Guide) (1st ed.). Guilford, Conn.: Morris Book Publishing, LLC. p. 196. ISBN 0-7627-3805-7. OCLC 61461560.
  14. ^ Giallourou, Natasa; Oruna-Concha, Maria Jose; Harbourne, Niamh (1 November 2016). "Effects of domestic processing methods on the phytochemical content of watercress (Nasturtium officinale)" (PDF). Food Chemistry. 212: 411–419. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.05.190. ISSN 0308-8146. PMID 27374550.
  15. ^ "How Long Does Fresh Watercress Last?". www.stilltasty.com. Retrieved 16 June 2022.
  16. ^ "DPDx - Laboratory Identification of Parasitic Diseases of Public Health Concern: Fascioliasis". US Centers for Disease Control. 29 November 2013.
  17. ^ Leclercq, Isabelle; Desager, Jean-Pierre; Horsmans, Yves (1998). "Inhibition of chlorzoxazone metabolism, a clinical probe for CYP2E1, by a single ingestion of watercress". Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 64 (2): 144–9. doi:10.1016/S0009-9236(98)90147-3. PMID 9728894. S2CID 43863786.
  18. ^ Cao L, Berent L (30 July 2019). "Nasturtium officinale W.T. Aiton". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 15 June 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

External linksEdit