The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

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, watercress, water cress, yellowcress

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Watercress is a fast-growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial herb that appears floating or prostrate in mud. Stems are succulent, hollow, and branched, rooting at nodes. Leaves are pinnately divided; leaflets 3–7, oval to egg-shaped, entire to wavy-edged. Flowers are small (6 mm, diameter) and white, in terminal clusters. Sepals are erect, green, about 3 mm long; petals are white, about 4 mm long with 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 are beaded; seeds suborbicular and compressed, with 25 alveoli on each side of the testa.  This species 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.

Size: 4–25 in. long

Native Range: Eurasia & Asia.

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Nasturtium officinale are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL194420204Bear; Locust; Middle Coosa; South Atlantic-Gulf Region
AZ1944200810Agua Fria; Hassayampa; Imperial Reservoir; Lower Colorado Region; Lower Verde; Middle Gila; San Francisco; Upper Gila-Mangas; Upper Santa Cruz; Upper Verde
AR1978202216Arkansas-White-Red Region; Beaver Reservoir; Bull Shoals Lake; Frog-Mulberry; Illinois; Lower Arkansas; Lower Black; Lower Red-Ouachita; Lower White; Middle White; Ouachita Headwaters; Spring; St. Francis; Upper Ouachita; Upper Ouachita; Upper White
CA18772019102Aliso-San Onofre; Antelope-Fremont Valleys; Battle Creek; Big Chico Creek-Sacramento River; Big-Navarro-Garcia; Butte Creek; California Region; Calleguas; Carrizo Creek; Central Coastal; Cottonwood-Tijuana; Coyote; Crowley Lake; Cuyama; Death Valley-Lower Amargosa; East Branch North Fork Feather; East Walker; Eureka-Saline Valleys; Fish Lake-Soda Spring Valleys; Fresno River; Havasu-Mohave Lakes; Honcut Headwaters-Lower Feather; Honey-Eagle Lakes; Indian Wells-Searles Valleys; Ivanpah-Pahrump Valleys; Lake Tahoe; Los Angeles; Lower American; Lower Eel; Lower Sacramento; Mad-Redwood; Mattole; Middle Fork Eel; Middle Fork Feather; Middle Kern-Upper Tehachapi-Grapevine; Middle San Joaquin-Lower Chowchilla; Mojave; Mono Lake; Monterey Bay; Newport Bay; North Fork American; North Fork Feather; Owens Lake; Pajaro; Panamint Valley; Paynes Creek-Sacramento River; Piute Wash; Russian; Sacramento-Stone Corral; Salinas; Salmon; San Antonio; San Diego; San Felipe Creek; San Francisco Bay; San Francisco Coastal South; San Gabriel; San Jacinto; San Joaquin Delta; San Luis Rey-Escondido; San Pablo Bay; San Pedro Channel Islands; Santa Ana; Santa Barbara Channel Islands; Santa Barbara Coastal; Santa Clara; Santa Margarita; Santa Maria; Santa Monica Bay; Santa Ynez; Scott; Shasta; Smith; South Fork American; South Fork Eel; South Fork Kern; Southern Mojave; Suisun Bay; Surprise Valley; Tomales-Drake Bays; Trinity; Truckee; Tulare Lake Bed; Upper Bear; Upper Cache; Upper Carson; Upper Cosumnes; Upper Dry; Upper Kaweah; Upper Kern; Upper King; Upper Merced; Upper Mokelumne; Upper Pit; Upper Poso; Upper San Joaquin; Upper Stony; Upper Tule; Upper Tuolumne; Ventura; West Walker; Whitewater River
CO194420092Lower Green-Diamond; Lower Yampa
CT183120133New England Region; Outlet Connecticut River; Quinnipiac
DE193219802Brandywine-Christina; Broadkill-Smyrna
DC200820081Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan
FL1986202024Apalachee Bay-St. Marks; Apalachicola; Aucilla; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Daytona-St. Augustine; Econfina-Steinhatchee; Kissimmee; Lower Choctawhatchee; Lower Ochlockonee; Lower St. Johns; Lower Suwannee; Oklawaha; Peace-Tampa Bay; Santa Fe; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; St. Johns; St. Johns; Tampa Bay; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Waccasassa; Withlacoochee; Withlacoochee; Yellow
GA1947202013Conasauga; Etowah; Lower Chattahoochee; Lower Ogeechee; Lower Savannah; Middle Flint; Middle Tennessee-Chickamauga; Oostanaula; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Tugaloo; Upper Chattahoochee; Upper Coosa; Upper Little Tennessee
ID189620087Birch; Clearwater; Lemhi; Lochsa; Pacific Northwest Region; Upper Salmon; Upper Snake-Rock
IL1877201524Big Muddy; Chicago; Des Plaines; Kankakee; Kishwaukee; Lower Fox; Lower Illinois; Lower Illinois-Lake Chautauqua; Lower Illinois-Senachwine Lake; Lower Rock; Mackinaw; Macoupin; Middle Wabash-Busseron; Rock; Upper Fox; Upper Illinois; Upper Illinois; Upper Kaskaskia; Upper Mississippi Region; Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau; Upper Mississippi-Meramec; Upper Sangamon; Vermilion; Wabash
IN1942200824Blue-Sinking; Driftwood; Eel; Eel; Iroquois; Kankakee; Little Calumet-Galien; Lower East Fork White; Lower Wabash; Lower White; Middle Wabash-Busseron; Middle Wabash-Little Vermilion; Ohio Region; Patoka-White; Silver-Little Kentucky; St. Joseph; Sugar; Tippecanoe; Upper Wabash; Upper White; Wabash; Wabash; Whitewater; Wildcat
IA194420087Coon-Yellow; Maquoketa; Middle Des Moines; Missouri-Nishnabotna; Turkey; Upper Mississippi-Maquoketa-Plum; Upper Wapsipinicon
KS194420191Lower Cottonwood
KY194420152Lower Kentucky; Upper Green
LA197220083Atchafalaya - Vermilion; Lake Maurepas; Red-Sulphur
ME193220033New England Region; Presumpscot; Saco
MD1894202310Choptank; Conococheague-Opequon; Gunpowder-Patapsco; Lower Susquehanna; Mid Atlantic Region; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Monocacy; Patuxent; Severn
MA194420183Ashuelot River-Connecticut River; Cape Cod; New England Region
MI1857201728Au Sable; Betsie-Platte; Black-Macatawa; Boardman-Charlevoix; Cheboygan; Great Lakes Region; Huron; Kawkawlin-Pine; Lake Michigan; Manistee; Northeastern Lake Michigan; Northwestern Lake Huron; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Pine; Saginaw; Southcentral Lake Superior; Southeastern Lake Michigan; Southwestern Lake Huron; St. Clair; St. Clair-Detroit; St. Joseph; Thornapple; Thunder Bay; Tittabawassee; Upper Grand; Upper Wisconsin; Western Lake Erie
MN1884201121Buffalo-Whitewater; Cannon; Des Moines Headwaters; Kettle; Leech Lake; Lower Minnesota; Lower St. Croix; Minnesota; Mississippi Headwaters; Pine; Root; Roseau; Rum; Rush-Vermillion; St. Croix; St. Louis; Twin Cities; Two Rivers; Upper Mississippi-Black-Root; Upper Mississippi-Crow-Rum; Zumbro
MS198920081Lower Mississippi-Natchez
MO196920193Current; Lower Missouri-Moreau; Meramec
MT194420152Flathead Lake; Middle Kootenai
NE194420192Middle North Platte-Scotts Bluff; Missouri Region
NV193720086Black Rock Desert-Humboldt; Central Lahontan; Central Nevada Desert Basins; Great Basin Region; Lower Colorado-Lake Mead; Upper Amargosa
NH189620083Merrimack River; New England; Piscataqua-Salmon Falls
NJ198320207Hackensack-Passaic; Lower Hudson; Mid-Atlantic Region; Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Raritan; Sandy Hook-Staten Island
NM194420081Upper Gila-Mangas
NY1881202035Bronx; Buffalo-Eighteenmile; Cattaraugus; Chautauqua-Conneaut; Chemung; Chenango; Conewango; East Branch Delaware; Eastern Lake Erie; Great Lakes Region; Housatonic; Hudson-Hoosic; Hudson-Wappinger; Long Island; Lower Genesee; Lower Hudson; Lower Hudson; Middle Hudson; Mohawk; Northern Long Island; Oneida; Oswego; Owego-Wappasening; Rondout; Sacandaga; Sandy Hook-Staten Island; Schoharie; Seneca; Southern Long Island; Southwestern Lake Ontario; Upper Delaware; Upper Genesee; Upper Hudson; Upper Susquehanna; Virginian
NC1944202010Cape Fear; Haw; Hiwassee; Nolichucky; Pigeon; Rocky; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Upper Little Tennessee; Upper Neuse; Watauga, North Carolina, Tennessee
OH1944202224Ashtabula-Chagrin; Black-Rocky; Cuyahoga; Grand; Hocking; Lake Erie; Licking; Little Miami; Lower Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio; Mahoning; Middle Ohio-LittleMiami; Middle Ohio-Raccoon; Mohican; Ohio Brush-Whiteoak; Paint; Sandusky; Scioto; Southern Lake Erie; Tuscarawas; Upper Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio; Upper Ohio; Upper Ohio-Wheeling; Upper Scioto; Western Lake Erie
OK194420183Arkansas-White-Red Region; Farmers-Mud; Lower Neosho
OR1881201931Alsea; Alvord Lake; Applegate; Burnt; Coos; Donner und Blitzen; Guano; Lower Columbia; Lower Columbia-Sandy; Lower Crooked; Lower John Day; Lower Owyhee; Lower Rogue; Lower Willamette; Middle Fork Willamette; Middle Rogue; Middle Willamette; North Umpqua; Pacific Northwest Region; Siletz-Yaquina; Silvies; Trout; Tualatin; Umatilla; Umpqua; Upper John Day; Upper Klamath; Upper Klamath Lake; Upper Rogue; Upper Willamette; Wilson-Trusk-Nestuccu
PA1879202250Allegheny; Bald Eagle; Brandywine-Christina; Chautauqua-Conneaut; Clarion; Conemaugh; Connoquenessing; Conococheague-Opequon; Delaware; French; Gunpowder-Patapsco; Kiskiminetas; Lake Erie; Lehigh; Lower Allegheny; Lower Delaware; Lower Delaware; Lower Juniata; Lower Monongahela; Lower Susquehanna; Lower Susquehanna; Lower Susquehanna-Penns; Lower Susquehanna-Swatara; Lower West Branch Susquehanna; Mahoning; Mid Atlantic Region; Middle Allegheny-Redbank; Middle Allegheny-Tionesta; Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Monocacy; North Branch Potomac; Pine; Raystown; Schuylkill; Shenango; Susquehanna; Tioga; Upper Allegheny; Upper Delaware; Upper Juniata; Upper Ohio; Upper Ohio-Beaver; Upper Ohio-Wheeling; Upper Susquehanna; Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna; Upper Susquehanna-Tunkhannock; Upper West Branch Susquehanna; West Branch Susquehanna; Youghiogheny
PR193520123Culebrinas-Guanajibo; Eastern Puerto Rico; Southern Puerto Rico
RI181020085Blackstone River; Massachusetts-Rhode Island Coastal; Narragansett; New England Region; Pawcatuck River
SC196819973Lower Pee Dee; Santee; South Atlantic-Gulf Region
SD194420081Missouri Region
TN1959201922French Broad-Holston; Hiwassee; Holston; Lower Clinch; Lower Cumberland; Lower Cumberland; Lower Cumberland-Old Hickory Lake; Lower Duck; Lower French Broad; Lower Little Tennessee; Lower Tennessee; Middle Tennessee-Elk; Middle Tennessee-Hiwassee; Obey; Ohio Region; South Fork Holston; Stones; Tennessee Region; Upper Cumberland-Cordell Hull Reservoir; Upper Tennessee; Upper Tennessee; Watauga, North Carolina, Tennessee
TX189420234Delaware; Pedernales; San Marcos; Upper Guadalupe
UT1944198813Escalante Desert-Sevier Lake; Great Basin Region; Great Salt Lake; Jordan; Lower Bear; Lower Colorado-Lake Mead; Lower Green; Lower Weber; Upper Bear; Upper Colorado Region; Upper Colorado-Dirty Devil; Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir; Weber
VT194420084Connecticut; Lake Champlain-Richelieu River; Northeastern Lake Ontario-Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence; Upper Connecticut
VA1892202012Conococheague-Opequon; Maury; Middle James-Buffalo; Middle New; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; North Fork Holston; North Fork Shenandoah; Rivanna; South Fork Shenandoah; Upper James; Upper New
WA1944202216Hood Canal; Little Spokane; Lower Cowlitz; Lower Crab; Lower Skagit; Lower Snake-Tucannon; Lower Spokane; Lower Yakima; Nisqually; Pacific Northwest Region; Palouse; Puget Sound; Rock; Upper Chehalis; Upper Columbia-Entiat; Upper Yakima
WV194420204Cheat; Greenbrier; Middle New; Shenandoah
WI1944201831Bad-Montreal; Beartrap-Nemadji; Black-Presque Isle; Buffalo-Whitewater; Castle Rock; Chippewa; Coon-Yellow; Fox; La Crosse-Pine; Lake Michigan; Lake Superior; Lower St. Croix; Lower Wisconsin; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Menominee; Northwestern Lake Michigan; Oconto; Pecatonica; Pike-Root; Rock; Southwestern Lake Michigan; St. Croix; Sugar; Upper Fox; Upper Fox; Upper Mississippi Region; Upper Mississippi-Maquoketa-Plum; Upper Rock; Upper Wisconsin; Wisconsin; Wolf

Table last updated 7/22/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for states where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

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). This species is 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 and 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: Watercress 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).

Watercress is an edible green with a peppery flavor that is commonly used in salads, as a garnish, or cooked, and which 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 may also have cancer-suppressing properties, and 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 http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/fasciola/. 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 http://michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=670. Accessed 12 April 2013.

Robert W. Freckman Herbarium. 2012. Family Brassicaceae. Nasturtium officinale R.Br. Available http://wisplants.uwsp.edu/scripts/detail.asp?SpCode=NASOFF. 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 http://www.ecy.wa.gov/Programs/wq/plants/plantid2/descriptions/rornas.html. 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 http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Invasives/documents/classification/Nasturtium%20officinale.pdf. Accessed 29 April 2013.

Author: Cao, L, and L. Berent

Revision Date: 7/30/2019

Citation Information:
Cao, L, and L. Berent, 2024, Nasturtium officinale W.T. Aiton: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=229, Revision Date: 7/30/2019, Access Date: 7/22/2024

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. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/22/2024].

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