Nasturtium officinale
Nasturtium officinale
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Nasturtium officinale W.T. Aiton

Common name: water-cress

Synonyms and Other Names: Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) Hayek, Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum, (L.) H. Karst., Sisymbrium nasturtium-aquaticum L., Nasturtium officinale var. siifolium (Rchb.) W.D.J. Koch

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Water cress is a fast-growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial herb. Floating or prostrate in mud. Stems succulent, hollow, and much branched, 1 to many, 4–25 in. long, rooting at nodes. Leaves pinnately divided; leaflets 3–7, oval to egg-shaped, entire to wavy-edged. Flowers small (6 mm, diameter) in terminal clusters, white. Sepals, erect, green, about 3 mm long; petals white, about 4 mm long and 4 long stamens attached near their bases to the filaments. Ovary about 3 mm long, style short, stigma with two lobes. Fruits borne on spreading pedicels and slightly curved upward. The double row of seeds in each half of the siliqua is a well marked character. The valves of the ripe siliqua beaded; seeds suborbicular and compressed, with 25 alveoli on each side of the testa.  It can grow to a height of 50-200 cm, with a stem up to 20 mm in diameter and with leaves up to 27 cm in length.

Native Range: Eurasia & Asia

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Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
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Guam Saipan
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Water cress is usually considered as introduced in America, S. Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It was first introduced in United States in 1831. Now recorded in the following states: AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY.

1st Great Lakes sighting 1847 Lake Ontario

Ecology: Nasturium officinale is a perennial herb that grows at the water’s surface along the edges of cold lakes and reservoirs, and along slow-moving streams and rivers (Benson et al. 2004, Howard and Lyon 1952, Robert W. Frackman Herbarium 2012). The depth of water in commercial watercress beds is about 3-6 in (Howard and Lyon 1952).  Well-suited to water that is slightly alkaline and it is usually absent from stagnant water. Watercress prefers to take roots in limey, gravelly, sediment (Robert W. Freckman Herbarium 2012). Watercress appears to be intolerant of heavy shade (Howard and Lyon 1952). A relatively high humidity is required for optimum growth (Howard and Lyon 1952).

Nasturium officinale overwinters with terminal buds up to 10 cm in length (Howard and Lyon 1952). Watercress is most abundant in summer and autumn; flowers between March to October. This species is self-compatible and produces ~ 15 fruits per inflorescences and 26 seeds per fruit (Howard and Lyon 1952). This species is also capable of vegetative reproduction (Howard and Lyon 1952).

Means of Introduction: Intentionally introduced by green industry and cultivation. Fragments are dispersed unintentionally by wind, water, and animals.

Status: Established.   Naturalized throughout North America, north to Alaska

Impact of Introduction: Water cress may be a noxious weed or invasive. In arid regions of western states, it can alter function and block streams. It was reported to block water flow in springs in South Central Wisconsin. Extracts can attract schistosomiasis host Biomphalaria glabrata (snail).

Rich source of potential anticarcinogen; Edible green used in salads, cooking; Homeopathic properties; Wastewater treatment.  “Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. Many benefits from eating watercress are claimed, such as that it acts as a mild stimulant, a source of phytochemicals and antioxidants, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. It also appears to have cancer-suppressing properties. It is widely believed to help defend against lung cancer.” (

References: (click for full references)

Bahramikia, S. and R. Yazdanparast. 2010. Antioxidant efficacy of Nasturtium officinale extracts using various in vitro assay systems. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies 3(4): 283—290.

Benson, A. J., C.C. Jacono, P.L. Fuller, E. R. McKercher., and M. M. Richerson. 2004. Summary Report of Nonindigenous Aquatic Species in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 5. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arlington, Va. 145 pp.

Bleeker, W., M. Huthmann, and H. Hurka. 1999. Evolution of Hybrid Taxa in Nasturtium R.Br. (Brassicaceae). Folia Geobotanica 34(4): 421—433.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2013. Fascioliasis (Fasciola Infection). Available Accessed 29 April 2013.

Connecticut Aquatic Nuisance Species Working Group (CANSWP). 2006. Connecticut Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan. State of Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. 117 pp.

Duman, F. and F. Ozturk. 2010. Nickel accumulation and its effect on biomass, protein content and antioxifative enzymes in roots and leaves of watercress (Nasturtium officinale R. Br.). Journal of Environmental Sciences (China) 22(4): 526—532.

Falck, M. and S. Garske. 2003. Invasive Non-native Plant Management During 2002. Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), Odanah, WI. 68 pp.

Gill, C. I., S. Haldar, L.A. Boyd, R. Bennett, J. Whiteford, M. Butler, J.R. Pearson, I. Bradbury, and I. R. Rowland. 2007. Watercress supplementation in diet reducs lymphocyte DNA damage and alters blood antioxidant status in healthy adults. THe american Journal of Clinical Nutrition 85(2): 504—510.

Great Lakes Panel for Aquatic Nuisance Species (GLPANS). 2008. Prohibitied Species in the Great Lakes Region. 14 pp.

Howard, H.W., Lyon, A.G. 1952. Nasturtium Officinale R. Br. (Rorippa Nasturtium-Aquaticum (L.) Hayek). The Journal of Ecology 40 (1): 228-245. 

Howard-Williams, C., J. Davis, and S. Pickmere. 1982. The dynamics of growth, the effects of changing area and nitrate uptake by watercress Nasturtium officinale R. Br. in a New Zealand stream. Journal of Applied Ecology 19(2): 589—601.

Keser, G. and S. Saygideger. 2010. Effects of lead on the activities of antioxidant enzymes in watercress, Nasturtium officinale R. Br. Biological Trace Element Research 137(2): 235—243.

Kullberg, R. G. 1974. Distribution of aquatic macrophyte related to paper milll effluents in a southern Michigan stream. American Midland Naturalist 91(2): 271—281.

Newman, R. M., Z. Hanscom, and W. C. Kerfoot. 1992. The watercress glucosinolate-myrosinase system: a feeding deterrent to caddisflies, snails and amphipods. Oecologia 92(1): 1—7.

Ozturk, F., F. Duman, Z. Leblebici, and R. Temizgul. 2010. Arsenic accumulation and biological responses of watercress (Nasturtium officinale  R. Br.) exposed to arsenite. Environmental and Experimental Botany 69(2): 167—174.

Redding, T.S., Midlen, A. 1997. The treatment of aquaculture wastewaters - A botanical approach. Journal of Environmental Management 50 (3): 283-299.

Reznicek, A.A., E. G. Voss, and B. S. Walters. 2011. Michigan Flora Online. University of Michigan. Available Accessed 12 April 2013.

Robert W. Freckman Herbarium. 2012. Family Brassicaceae. Nasturtium officinale R.Br. Available Accessed 29 April 2013.

State of Washington, Department of Ecology.  2013. Nasturtium officinale R. Br. Formerly called Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum (L.) hayek, water cress. Available Accessed 29 April 2013.

Tardio, M Pardo-De-Santayana, Morales, R. 2006. Ethnobotanical review of wild edible plants in Spain. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 152 (1): 27-71.

Tenorio, R.C., Drezner, T.D. 2006. Native and invasive vegetation of karst springs in Wisconsin's Driftless area. Hydrobiologia 568: 499-505.

Walsh, J. A. and K. Phelps. 1991. Development and evaluation of a technique for screening watercress (Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum) for resistance to watercress yellow spot virus and crook-root fungus (Spongospora subterranea f. sp. nasturtii). Plant Pathology 40(2): 212—220.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR).  2010. Watercress: Nasturtium officinale.  5 pp. Available Accessed 29 April 2013.

Other Resources:

The PLANTS Database 2008. National Plant Data Center, NRCS, USDA. Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Connecticut Botanical Society



Turner Photographics

Author: Cao, L, and L. Berent

Revision Date: 7/1/2014

Citation Information:
Cao, L, and L. Berent, 2018, Nasturtium officinale W.T. Aiton: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 7/1/2014, Access Date: 3/22/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/22/2018].

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