Barbarea vulgaris (Garden Yellow Rocket)

Plant Info
Also known as: Winter Cress, Yellow-rocket
Family:Brassicaceae (Mustard)
Life cycle:biennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist fields, edges of woods, along roads, along shores
Bloom season:April - June
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in rounded clusters 1 to 1½ inches across at the top of branching stems in the upper plant. Individual flowers are about 1/3 inch across, with 4 yellow petals, 6 yellow-tipped stamens, a slender style, and 4 yellow-green sepals. Clusters elongate as the plant matures, with flowers blooming at the tip and fruit forming along the stem below.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves become progressively smaller as they ascend the stem. Near the base of the plant they are deeply lobed with a large rounded lobe at the tip and 1 to 4 pairs of small rounded lobes on the stalk. Basal leaves are up to 6 inches long and 2½ inches wide; the edges are often somewhat wavy. Stem leaves typically have a pair of lobes (auricles) at the base of the stalk that clasp the stem.

[photo of upper leaves] At the top of the plant leaves are rather smaller and somewhat variable, may be unlobed, wedge shaped to oval or shallowly lobed with little or no stalk. The upper surface of all leaves is dark green and glossy. Attachment is alternate. Stems are branched, hairless, ridged or angled, purplish or green with purple streaks or stripes. Multiple stems arise from the base, forming a clump.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit]  Fruits are slender green pods about 1 inch long that typically angle or curve up. The pods hold numerous tiny brown seeds.


Garden Yellow Rocket is a pest plant from Eurasia that doesn't typically invade high quality habitat, but thrives in disturbed soil such as along roadsides, fields and construction sites. It can form large colonies, but scattered plants are encountered as well. It is a common sight along roadsides in spring, like the massive infestation found along a county road in Washington County (see image below). It is very similar in nearly all respects to the native American Yellow Rocket (Barbarea orthoceras); while there are small differences in flower size, leaf shape and fruit arrangement, it is most easily distinguished by at least some stem leaves having a fringe of hairs around the auricles, where Garden Yellow Rocket auricles are all hairless.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey and Washington counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Shehnaz - brooklyn center
on: 2010-04-30 08:42:45

They are growing in my flower bad in my front yard, i keep them contained to the bed. They are pretty early bloomers.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-04-30 14:27:43

How can you be so certain they are contained? They easily spread to roadsides, woodland edges, and your neighbors' yards. It's a noxious weed. You should get rid of it.

Posted by: Dori - LeSueur County
on: 2010-04-30 22:06:00

While walking on our county road with a friend, we noticed this flower blooming in the ditch alongside the road. Have never noticed it before.

Posted by: Robin - Northwood Park, New Hope, MN.
on: 2011-05-13 16:55:12

5/13/11 These are just starting to open. There should be a lot open soon.

Posted by: Neil - Millville
on: 2011-05-22 16:09:47

We have this around where I live. It's also known as Wintercress and it's not really a bad thing to have around. The leaves only (before flowering) are mainly used as food, for salads, and as a pot herb, or fried, and it's high in vitamin C and minerals. It's also used as a bitter medicinal tea to stimulate appetite, purify and strengthen blood (the Cherokee Indians practiced this), for coughs, and as a diuretic. Caution is advised in eating the raw plant, only small amounts 1 tbls. chopped leaves or less. Make sure you only consume from plants that are grown in pure clean soil because wintercress has an amazing ability to store contaminates, even pesticides, from the soil or water it grows in. There's an abundance of information about it's medicinal and edible uses if you Google the scientific name.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-22 21:03:57

I can't really get very excited about its benefits to humans when I see it choking roadsides everywhere I go, like wild parsnip does in SE Minnesota. Please feel free to rid our landscape of yellow rocket, as it is an invasive pest that is spreading.

Posted by: B. Anspach - Bemidji Beltrami
on: 2011-05-24 19:17:33

Found some of this in my back yard as I was mowing this am. It was a bit smaller than the ID specs but, in northern MN there shouldn't be any yellow flowers out there this time of year (on dry ground) that are native plants so I started looking it up to see what it was.

Posted by: Jane - Hennepin
on: 2011-05-30 21:34:59

This plant is not on the prohibited noxious weed list, nor is it on the restricted noxious weed list.

It is only on the secondary noxious weed list which means that a county, if it so chooses, can add it to the list of prohibited or restricted noxious weeds. People can grow, import it, do whatever they like with it as long as their county doesn't view it as a problem. That is done for species that in some local environments can turn into real problems but usually are OK, like this one.

You're throwing out the baby with the bathwater if you confound the two types of list.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-05-30 22:13:20

Jane, based on your other comments, you seem to have a fondness for invasive plants. I'm not really sure what point you are trying to make citing noxious weed lists, however, you may not be aware that "noxious weeds" are strictly an agricultural label, not an ecological one.

The Minnesota Dept of Agriculture regulates the noxious weeds in Minnesota. They are not an environmental agency so they make no consideration as to environmental factors, only agricultural factors. They are also a regulatory agency, not an enforcement or control agency.

Regardless of what you personally think of any particular plant, non-natives are killing our ecosystems more and more every year. Yellow rocket is now thick along every roadside I travel. It worries me that it and other weeds are allowed to run amok like this. Do you ever think that your children and their children won't know the beauty of a healthy native plant community because the only thing left will be weeds? I wonder if we as a community will ever open our eyes and see the damage plants like this are causing. Can we do anything to stop this destruction?

Posted by: Lucinda - south Isanti County
on: 2014-06-01 09:53:41

We have never had this on our farm before (at least not in notable amounts), but this year it is everywhere.

Posted by: Gayle - Lake County
on: 2014-06-25 18:16:08

I'm noticing this plant blooming in large quantities at Gooseberry Falls State Park, along Hwy 61 and Scenic 61, and at the Two Harbors Lighthouse. I've never noticed it before in such large quantities and had a hard time finding it in North Shore flower books. If there some reason it is so abundant this year?

Posted by: Jan - Scott County Jordan Area
on: 2015-05-12 08:50:22

Found one plant by the side of our driveway, haven't seen it before. Pulled it out and will keep an eye out for more.

Posted by: Maureen - Lakeville
on: 2015-05-14 07:28:30

I just saw this blooming in my butterfly garden in an area that had been disturbed last summer (by a dog digging a huge hole). Then I noticed it in a couple more spots in my front garden. I will go out and pull it up. I live on the edge of the woods, plus some grassy areas, and don't want it to take over. I really don't like take over plants and understand the importance of preserving native species. I have been working on the buckthorn problem for years. Unfortunately, some people think it is "the woods" and take exception to it being removed. They don't have a clue as to the damage it is doing to the woodlands.

Posted by: Bonnie - Grand Rapids
on: 2015-05-31 13:57:35

I saw this growing in my one year old flower bed and let it bloom just so I could identify it. Last year, we had soil brought in from a local garden center, and I thought maybe it would be a "special" type of plant, but now I will pull it as I don't want it taking over my new bed!

Posted by: Scott - MN
on: 2016-04-20 02:31:35

These plants make a delicious stir fry as well as used sparingly in salads. One of my favorite greens. I don't see any evidence that they are "choking out" native species. What native species have been threatened by yellow rocket? Sheesh, people wanting to eliminate a free, healthy food source. #firstworldproblems

Posted by: Maureen - Lakeville
on: 2016-05-02 08:30:17

I just noticed this out in my back yard just beyond some trees. It is growing in the field-like area that I was hoping to see more things like milkweed and native plants in. A couple years ago we had to have a bunch of oak trees cut down, hence, the field. After thinking about this, and reading all the comments, I think I will pull it out.

Posted by: Laurie O - Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park
on: 2017-05-04 06:52:34

Found this growing alongside the road at the parking lot off of Aqua street.

Posted by: Marilyn H - St. James, Watonwan County, MN
on: 2017-05-17 11:44:54

We had one plant that exactly fits this description in our garden. This was new on our property this year. It was at the edge of our garden, which is next to a field of grasses, alfalfa, clover... and burdock, which is also trying to move in. We recently lost large spruce trees in weather events and since then, this plant showed up. It was pretty, but we prefer not to have this take over our small organic garden space. This is an informative site..thanks!

Posted by: Delayne D - Grand Portage
on: 2017-05-27 08:58:03

This just came up in my yard, first time ever.

Posted by: Teri McNamara - Robbinsdale lawn (Hennepin County)
on: 2018-05-20 16:03:01

Thanks to this site I was able to identify this plant when half a dozen of them suddenly appeared in my fenced backyard this May. All removed and on the lookout now.

Posted by: Christopher White - Rochester
on: 2018-05-31 06:42:26

I have a large population of these in the small prairie behind my house. I am happy to know what they are.

Posted by: Beth Riesgraf-Wyman - Saint Cloud
on: 2018-07-08 22:05:43

Garden Yellow Rocket invaded our Mississippi river native planting after 1 year and we removed it ASAP and put it in the garbage before it has a chance to "go to seed". There are so many other non natives that invade the area - constantly fighting the battle of buckthorn, canary reed grass, tansy and lately creeping bellflower. These plants are aggressive, and can quickly take over native species. We encourage all gardeners to stick with the natives!!!!

Posted by: Marissa Sienko - Mille Lacs Area
on: 2019-05-28 00:04:20

HOLY MOLY!! These flowers are literally in every ditch, road median, field, and yard in my entire county! I had been trying to figure out what these were and initially thought they were Stiff Leaved Goldenrods. After more extensive detail oriented research, I found that they were Garden Yellow Rockets. These are taking over!!

Posted by: Valerie
on: 2020-05-23 15:57:12

What we currently consider to be native species may not be historically native. Every flower either came from somewhere or specialized into something new (a true native). To say that a plant is native, you should be able to prove it from a fossil record. Just because it has been here a hundred years, does not make it native. If we had only arrived in this area today, we might consider this plant a native. Just a thought.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-05-23 17:43:48

Valerie, plants that were here pre-European settlement are generally considered "native", though some North American species have been transported to areas outside their natural range. We know with some confidence which is which, especially with DNA testing. That's easier to do than finding fossil records for each species.

Posted by: luciearl - lake shore
on: 2020-05-24 13:38:23

This growing along the Cty Rd. 77 trail, unfortunately, I believe purposely planted. Many other non-native plants showed up after the trail, burdock, bird's-foot trefoil, pennycress, and bull thistle are a few. So sad not to see all the native wildflowers that used to be there. By the time they were done, I believe they went on the "cheap" when it came to flowers.

Posted by: Bill Brown - Grant
on: 2020-06-02 11:10:09

A couple of my neighbors have allowed dense patches of this to develop on their properties. It having thus caught my attention. Since then I have noticed lots along all the highways I travel in the NE metro. I'm adding it to a list of plants to keep off my land.

Posted by: Lin - Mille Lacs County
on: 2020-06-10 07:00:54

When we reseeded one of our organic farm hay fields, we'rd never seen rocket there before but now the field is loaded with it. Must have come in with the seed.

Posted by: Alexandra - McLeod County
on: 2020-06-23 10:06:52

Lin- we also just seeded a new horse pasture this spring (previously used for corn/soy beans) and it is everywhere! Anyone have any idea if it's toxic to any livestock, particularly horses?

Posted by: Steve Hornig - Nisswa
on: 2022-05-20 10:34:18

Just got to my cabin on Lake Hubert in Nisswa and I have an acre of grass that has 1-2,000 of them growing in it this year. Started pulling them but gave up. (Not sure how people picked cotton for 12 hrs a day but am now very empathetic towards those who did. !). It's spring and they have just sprung up so I plan to mow them and apply post emergent weed killer. These are a tough problem.

Posted by: KS - Kelly Lake
on: 2023-05-28 19:21:43

This is our second year in our house, and I only just noticed two robust stalks starting to tower over the dandelions. I almost didn't even see them.

Posted by: Lorraine N. - Eden Prairie
on: 2023-06-05 22:36:14

Not sure yet whether I have American or Garden Rocket, looked like it had some hairs though difficult to see/not many. I wonder if folks have differentiated what they have? Appreciate the guidance offered. Anyway I'm definitely not an expert so if I'm not convinced of my ID, I'll take to the Arb & see if they can help. I've been working (3rd year since moving in) on the back of our lot with the hope of going native. I'm told previous owner at one time had an "elaborate' garden. Have removed buckthorn, yards and yards of landscape fabric, and in my second year fighting garlic mustard. A mix of natives & non-natives are peeking through. Definitely a challenge!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-06-06 01:05:06

Lorraine, if you look at the county distribution map, you'll see the native is primarily restricted to the arrowhead region of the state, so in all likelihood you have the non-native weed in your yard.

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