Older people around this area remember gathering wild greens. Some of those were the wild cresses.
The popular one today is watercress. It even shows up in gardening catalogs with instructions how to grow it.
Watercress is an alien species brought here long ago. It has spread both by seeds and by cuttings. Yes, nature can do cuttings.
The stems of watercress are brittle and root at every leaf node. Floods break off stems, carry them downstream and these root to form new colonies.
Look for watercress in flowing cold water. I find it in spring fed streams and a wetland across from a spring. It forms large mats sometimes towering a foot over the water.
The most colorful one blooming now is yellow rocket or winter cress. The rosette of leaves persist through much of the winter and are edible. In spring stems shoot up lined and topped with bright yellow flowers.
These grow in lawns and along roads. One stretch of my road is lined with yellow rocket and is lovely filled with the bright color.
Near and in shallow cold water is the spring cress. Like watercress, spring cress has white flowers.
These are smaller plants, often single stems with an array of flowers at the top. The stem keeps growing so more flowers appear leaving the older ones to make seeds. This plant seems to set seeds and almost disappear like the spring ephemerals.
Several things are similar about these cresses. The flowers all have four petals. The leaves are deep green with ruffled edges. The seed pods are long capsules with many seeds in them. All of them are edible.
Wild cresses, there are many more than three, are among many plants found in the mustard family. We grow some members in our gardens: cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale and mustards among them.
Wild cresses are best eaten before they bloom. All of them are peppery any time but add a bit of bitterness when they bloom. All are nutritious.