What is Barbarea?

Deneatra Harmon
Deneatra Harmon
The leaves of barbarea may be included in green salads.
The leaves of barbarea may be included in green salads.

Barbarea is a plant with shiny, green, rounded leaves and four-petaled flowers. It also is known by names such as winter cress, garden cress, land cress and yellow rocket. Barbarea is biennial, meaning that it fully matures and blooms flower stalks every two years. Depending on the region, its temperatures and the flowering plant species, barbarea can also grow as a perennial that returns for several years.

Barbarea's four-petaled blooms develop into colorful shades of lavender, yellow and white. The flowering plants reside in various spaces, including wildflower gardens, farm fields and even open lots and roadsides. It belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which includes flowering plants in a group called Cruciferae, the scientific name that refers to cabbage and mustard plants. Some vegetables that transport from farm to table in this family include cabbages, turnips, broccoli and cauliflower, among others.

What is diverse about these plants is that they derive from hundreds of species. The species of barbarea reside all over the world, including in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. There are several types of barbarea, but the most familiar are Barbarea vulgaris and Barbarea verna. Barbarea verna also goes by the names of land cress, upland cress, early winter cress and early yellow rocket. The synonyms of Barbarea vulgaris include winter cress, garden cress and yellow rocket.

Planting conditions apply to both types of plants. Yellow rockets qualify as hardy plants that can withstand cold temperatures and frost. To improve the growth of the leaves and flowers, some gardeners recommend sowing the seeds as soon as early autumn up until early spring, depending on the species. Regardless of species, yellow rockets generally grow best when planted near a wall or in an area of the yard that receives some shading. Soil choices that are compatible with the yellow rocket and upland cress include clay, sandy and loamy soils.

Compared to biennial upland cress, yellow rocket lasts a while longer as a perennial that can succeed during mild winters. Overall, both species thrive most often in moist soil. Planting methods require that gardeners space the flowering plants in rows at least 12 inches (about 30 cm) apart, with no more than 6 inches (about 15 cm) between the seeds within the rows. With the appropriate planting techniques, both upland and yellow rocket varieties should bloom flowers from mid-spring to mid-summer.

Perhaps one distinctive quality of the yellow rocket is that it's edible, like its cousins in the Cruciferae family. When harvested from gardens, yellow rocket leaves can be cooked like spinach or included as salad greens. Upland cress also can be added to salads, cooked as greens or included as herbs for an entrée.

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    • The leaves of barbarea may be included in green salads.
      The leaves of barbarea may be included in green salads.