This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
No instance of its occurrence before the present day is known as yet. It is found in the Warm Temperate Zone to-day in Europe to the south of Belgium. It is common in Great Britain, occurring in Somerset, S. Wilts, Dorset, N. Hants, Surrey, Herts, Berks, Oxford, Bucks, W. Norfolk, Cambridge, Carnarvon, Flint, Anglesea, Bedford, or principally, that is to say, in Mid and East England, and it is rare in Scotland, according to Watson, being only a colonist.
The Candytuft, as really but a wild form of the cultivated form, is in England an escape from gardens or cultivated sources. It is found in cornfields and on cultivated ground entirely, indicating its want of permanence and source of introduction. As a rule the soil it favours is dry, and it usually occupies a lowland station.
It is an herbaceous plant, erect, with a branched stem, giving it a shrubby appearance on a small scale. The leaves are narrowly elliptical with several blunt teeth, and the whole plant is fleshy. The stem is ribbed and downy along the ribs, smooth elsewhere. The leaves are not very closely placed, and are stalkless, and occasionally fringed to some extent with hairs.
The flowers are white or purple, two outer petals exceeding the others and spreading. The flowers grow in a corymb or flowerhead, or in lengthened racemes. The pods are heart-shaped at the tip, with a triangular notch, and the valves are winged, usually flat. The style is longer than the wings, and the stigma notched.
Candytuft rarely reaches a height of 1 ft., being usually 6-9 in.
It is in flower from June or July to August. It is annual and propagated by seeds.
The flowers, though conspicuous and fairly large, do not usually become cross-pollinated, owing to their place of growth, amongst corn, in which they are quite hidden, so that insects do not see the flowers.
Candytuft is dispersed by its own agency. The winged pods open and allow the seeds to fall out around the plant.
It is a lime-loving plant, and subsists mainly on a lime soil, furnished by rocks such as the Chalk, which produces a gravelly, flinty, and rubbly subsoil.
Photo J. H. Crabtree - Candytuft (Iberis amara, L.)
There is no fungus that infests it; but a beetle, Pselliodes picipes, and a moth, Pionea margaritalis, frequent it.
The name Iberis was given by Dioscorides, and refers to its being a native of Iberia, the old name for Spain. Amara means bitter, referring to the taste. Candytuft alludes to the habit of the flowers, and to its coming from Candia in Crete.
It is called Candytuft, Churl's Mustard, Clown's Mustard, Sciatica Cress.
It grows in a wild state in the eastern counties at Hitchin. It is cultivated for growing in the garden, where it is an improved form of the wild plant, and is either white or crimson in colour, Iberis umbellata, which came from Candia, is a larger flower.
It is endowed with a very bitter taste, but has not been largely used except as a Cress or for such complaints as sciatica. It is not now employed for any such purposes.
Essential Specific Characters: 36. Iberis amara, L. - Stem branched, spreading, leaves lanceolate., dentate, flowers in a corymb, petals unequal, the outer radiant, white or lilac, pods orbicular, winged, notched, with triangular lobes.