The name Jack-by-the-hedge reveals its natural tendency to be found along hedgerows, or similar semi-shaded areas such as the edge of woodlands. Also known as garlic mustard due to the taste of its leaves, the whole plant is edible from its roots to its flowers and seeds.

It is biennial, meaning its life cycle takes two years to complete. It contains a natural antifreeze, so the young leaves are able to survive their first winter, before flowering the subsequent spring.

It is a particular favourite of the caterpillar of the orange tip butterfly. The orange eggs can sometimes be found just behind the flowers, and the caterpillars can be found feeding on its seed pods from June onwards.