When it comes to ranking weeds, of course bindweed, mares tail and ground elder top the charts. I know people get their knickers in a knot over Japanese knotweed but it is not something that will appear in your garden unless it creeps under the fence from next door. I am not very keen on cleavers (goosegrass) but the most annoying is bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta). It is an annual, or more accurately an ephemeral because the plants can move from seedling to seed-flinging adulthood in a few weeks. It grows in disturbed and bare soil and self seeds with abandon. There was none in the garden here when I started it but lots now, arriving in pots of plants I have bought and seeding before I noticed. I have it for ever now.
But no plant, like people, is totally bad and hairy bittercress is edible. Though the flower stalks are a bit tough the young plants are peppery and tasty and packed with good things like vitamin C.
Although the plants seed like crazy the flowers are tiny – very tiny, about 4mm across with four tiny white petals. I am not sure which pollinator has good enough eyesight to find them.
And so to the point of this post. I was walking past a neglected area at work the other day and a beam of sun was highlighting a little splash of brilliant white. It was so pure white that it stopped me in my tracks and I had to investigate. It was tiny but as I got closer I was more and more intrigued. It was a double-flowered bittercress. Each flower was packed with petals and they were huge compared to the usual size. The flowers were still tiny but about five times the size of normal. Imagine a new daffodil or petunia with flowers five times the usual size! Double flowers in the Brassicaceae are not new and, depsite your opinion of double flowers I think there is general agreement that double stocks are better than single ones and double sweet rocket an improvement on the singles.
There are not many native plants that have made it into gardens and although variegated nettles sound exciting they are still nettles. My little bittercress could be very exciting. I can see it in tiny tray gardens like tiny hollyhocks. I wish the plant had had somewhere better to grow and was bigger and not just a few straggly stems. The big question now is will it set seeds? The flowers are packed with petals and I cant see any stamens let alone an ovary. If it does not set seed then it will flower and die. I will just have to wait and see. But for now, I will enjoy it and dream of the day when I have enough seed to scatter over the garden and enjoy a flurry of dainty white blooms.
Update July 2020
I am sad to report that this plant did not set seed, as I feared. The flowers were so filled with petals that there was no sexual bits and it died without making any hint of a pod. I am just glad that I got to see it during its brief and spectacular life.