A rhizomatous perennial herb native on creek-sides, ditches, sea-walls, open brackish grassland and the upper fringes of estuarine saltmarshes. It is also naturalised in disturbed areas such as waste ground, dockland, railways and roadsides. Lowland.
L. latifolium was cultivated up to the 17th century as a hot flavouring before Armoracia rusticana was used for that purpose. Its ruderal habitat and the persistence of relics of cultivation make its native range difficult to delimit. The coastal distribution remains stable, but there are many more inland records than in the 1962 Atlas.
Eurosiberian Southern-temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.
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Light (Ellenberg): 8
Moisture (Ellenberg): 5
Reaction (Ellenberg): 7
Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 8
Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 3
January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 4.1
July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 16.6
Annual Precipitation (mm): 629
Height (cm): 120
Perennation - primary
Life Form - primary
Clonality - primary
Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 67
Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0
Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 4
Atlas Change Index: 1.23
Scarce Atlas Account
Lepidium latifolium L.
The habitats of this plant are creeksides, ditches and brackish marshland in the upper reaches of estuaries; and less frequently on sea walls, in saltmarshes and on damp sand. Inland, it may become a persistent weed of bare waste places, in gravel pits, on railway banks and by canals, sometimes as a relic of past cultivation.
This is a patch-forming stoloniferous perennial, flowering from June to September. It has probably dispersed inland from native coastal sites as portions of rootstock in gravels and other ballast.
This plant was once used as a ‘hot’ flavouring but has been long since replaced by horse-radish and pepper. Because of this it is difficult to assess its true native range. It would appear to be maintaining its numbers in its East Anglian heartland, and is unquestionably increasing in its inland ruderal habitats.
L. latifolium is found throughout Europe to c. 60 °N, in north Africa and south-west Asia. It is known to have been introduced in North America and Australasia.
F. J. Rumsey
Atlas text references
1986. Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jalas & Suominen (1996)
1991. Crucifers of Great Britain and Ireland. Botanical Society of the British Isles Handbook no. 6.
1994. Scarce plants in Britain.