Lepidium sativum L.

Lepidium sativum L.





Vernacular Names

English Garden cress, pepper cress, cress.
Indonesia Alim.
French Cresson alénois.

Geographical Distributions

Lepidium sativum is grown worldwide as a spicy salad herb. Its origin is not known, but possibly from Ethiopia or Iran.


L. sativum is an erect, polymorphic, annual herb that can grow up to 30-70 cm tall. The taproot is slender while the stems are usually much branched and smooth or with scattered minute hairs.

The leaves are arranged alternately, membranaceous, ovate-oblong in outline, measuring up to 12 cm x 9 cm, imparipinnati- or bipinnatipartite and with 2-4 pairs of lateral lobes. The lobes are linear, lance-shaped or oblanceolate and measure up to 3 cm long where the uppermost leaves are sometimes simple, serrate and hairless or sparsely pubescent. The petiole measures up to 4 cm long in basal leaves. The stipules are absent.

The inflorescence is a terminal or axillary raceme, measures 1-3 cm long and accrescent to 25 cm long when fruiting. The flowers are bisexual, rather conspicuous and whitish to violet. The pedicel is 3-6 mm long in fruit and ascending. There are 4 sepals which are elliptical, measure 1-1.5 mm long, green and with membranaceous margins. There are 4 petals which are spoon-shaped to slightly clawed, measure1.5-3 mm long and with rounded apex. There are 6 stamens that are unequal in length and with 6 nectaries that alternate with filaments. The ovary is superior, flattened dorso-ventrally, emarginated at the apex, with wing-like lateral margins, the style measures up to 0.5 mm long, with a capitates stigma and fine pappilate.

The fruit is an ovoid, flattened silique, measuring 4.5-6.5 mm x 3-4 mm, pale green to yellowish, with prominent apical wings, emarginated at the apex, dehiscing by 2 valves and leaves, the replum with a thin and white septum. There is 1 seed per locule. The seed is sub-ovoid, flattened, measuring 2-3 mm x 1.5 mm, wingless and reddish-brown.

The seedling is with epigeal germination. The cotyledons are trifoliolate and with spoon-shaped lobes while the lateral lobes are smaller.

Ecology / Cultivation

L. sativum is mainly known from cultivation but escaped, ruderal types occur as well, especially in the temperate regions and more rarely in the tropical regions. L. sativum prefers full sun or partial shade.

Line Drawing / Photograph



  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(2): Medicinal and poisonous plants 2.