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(bitter cress), a genus of annual, biennial, and perennial herbs of the family Cruciferae. The alternate leaves are entire or pinnate; the basal leaves are often in rosettes. The flowers, which are gathered into a raceme, are usually white, pink, lilac, or purple. The fruit is a greatly compressed linear silique.
There are about 150 species, distributed throughout the world but mainly in temperate regions. The USSR has more than 30 species. The cuckooflower (C. pratensis) is found almost everywhere on moist meadows, along rivers and streams, and in shady forests and parks. It reproduces vegetatively by means of adventitious buds on the basal leaves. The cuckooflower is nectiferous, as are some other species of Cardamine. In fresh form it is poisonous to horses and cattle; the quality of milk produced by animals that have eaten the herb is lowered. C. amara grows in the European USSR and Western Siberia. The young shoots and leaves of both C. pratensis and C. amara contain vitamin C and have antiscurvy properties; they may be used as a spice and as salad. C. pratensis and C. yezoensis are raised as ornamentals.
T. V. EGOROVA