Bittercress, watercress, or neither

Our farm pond flows directly into a broad flat floodplain with young tuliptrees and sweetgums.  Unlike most Piedmont streams, this stream has no steep banks, rather it spreads out naturally across the area creating lots of braided rivulets that rise and fall ever so slightly with the rains.  I suspect this is the more natural state of most Piedmont streams, but due to bad farming practices 100-200 years ago, these streams became “flashy” and very turbulent in large rain events, slowly cutting deeper channels through the floodplain.  Since our farm pond moderates any rain events, our floodplain beyond the pond seems to have retained a more natural state.

Walking through on this chilly morning I noticed a beautiful frost-kissed little plant in the Brassicaceae (Cabbage) family right in the middle of one of the perennial rivulets.  After taking a snapshot, I consulted my trusty copy of the Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas and found it to probably be bitter cress, or Cardamine pensylvanica.  Though I suppose it could be watercress (Nasturtium officinale) or some winter cress variety (Barbarea).  Any help with ID would be most appreciated in the comments section.  And any tips on whether bitter cress is edible…



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