Shepherd's Purse

Scientific name: Capsella bursa-pastoris
Abundance: uncommon
What: seeds, young leaves
How: seeds raw, young leaves raw or cooked
Where: sunny disturbed areas
When: early spring through late winter
Nutritional Value: minerals

Medicinal Summary:
Leaves/Stem/Flower - hemostatic; soothes gastrointestinal and urinary tract inflammations; anti-diarrheal; soothes bronchial passages (tisane, poultice)

Leaf Arrangement: Alternate; leaves spaced evenly along the stem, but slightly offset, not directly opposite each other.

Leaf Shape: Lyrate-pinnatifid; the lower leaves have large, rounded lobes on either side of the central stalk, resembling a lyre, while upper leaves become progressively smaller and less lobed, ultimately becoming lanceolate (long and narrow) near the flower clusters. Lower leaves typically 1-4 inches long and 1-2 inches wide, upper leaves smaller.

Leaf Venation: Pinnate; veins branching off a central midvein in the lower leaves, becoming less distinct in the upper leaves.

Leaf Margin: Lobe margins of lower leaves entire (smooth), upper leaves may have shallow teeth or be entire.

Leaf Color: Green, sometimes with a slightly bluish or grayish tinge.

Flower Structure: Small, white flowers with four petals, arranged in dense clusters at the tops of stems. Being Brassicaceae (mustards), the flowers have the four sepals and six stamens.

Flower Color: White, sometimes tinged with green or pink.

Fruit: Flat, triangular seed pods (silicles) about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and wide. Sillicles have a distinct notch at the tip and a prominent midvein. They turn green to light brown when mature.

Seed: Numerous tiny, reddish-brown seeds within each silicle.

Stem: Erect, slender, and sparsely branching. More than one stalk is possible.

Hairs: Sparse to absent, with occasional fine hairs on stems and young leaves.

Height: 4-24 inches.

Shepherd's purse plant.
Shepherd's Purse

Shepherds Purse

Close-up of shepherd's purse seed stalk.

Shepherds Purse

Shepherds Purse

Close-up of flowers.
Shepherds Purse

Basal rosette and roots.
Shepherds Purse

Basal rosette with one young stem.
Shepherds Purse

Close-up of leaves. Note their hairy surface.
Shepherds Purse

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Shepherd's Purse plants are common weeds of fields and recently disturbed areas. They can grow stalks up to two feet tall with the heart-shaped seed pods being ~1/2 inch apart and a cluster of small, white flowers at the very tip. Once found you will suddenly see many of them all around you.

The seedpods are small, heart-shaped with a spicy/peppery taste. Eat the whole seed stalk while green or dry then crush the seeds. The leaves are also good but are usually fairly weatherbeaten and tattered. The roots can be cleaned then ground up into a horseradish paste but they are small so it'll take a lot of plants. The lobed leaves grow in a rosette form close to the ground.

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