The spring runs clear and cold from the sandy hillside and has cut itself a channel between the slopes before it finally flows as a little stream into the swamp beyond. The spring runs clear and fast over the clean-washed brown sand. Unlike other streams of Illinois which almost invariably are muddy and thick, the. spring is clean and pure. In it, therefore, as an indication of clarity and purity and motion, grow beds of water cress.
Nasturtium officinale R. Br.
May - June. Springs, ponds, swamps.
The bright green little leaves on their matted stems cluster thickly in dense beds, all with their roots and stems in the water and the leaves in the sunlight, and the flower stalks with white blossoms held higher still. Down among the cool leaves sit dozens of little white-bellied cricket frogs, and on the spring evenings their pipings from the water cress beds are loud and long and happy, all the soft night through. Small transparent copepods, minute crustaceans, live among the cress roots or climb up into the leafage at water line. Sometimes one of the big yellow and brown bull snakes from the nearby swamp comes into the water cress beds to have a meal of small frogs. Sometimes the coots come pushing in here, like unmannerly tugboats, dabbling and bobbing about and shoving themselves hastily through the tangle of green leaves, hunting lor tasty little copepods and other morsels to eat.
Sometimes, too, people come here with knives and baskets to cut a mess of water cress for the table or for the market, for these pungent little green leaves which grow in spring water are much liked in salads. They give a certain pleasant pepperiness to the dullest of lettuces, spark up any salad, are a delight in the most ordinary sandwich.