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Shepherd's Purse Capsella bursa-pastoris

Previously known as:

  • Bursa abscissa
  • Bursa druceana
  • Capsella concava
  • Thlaspi bursa-pastoris
Phonetic Spelling
kap-SEL-luh BUR-suh PAS-tor-is
This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

Shepard's purse is a common winter annual garden weed in the mustard family. It can also be a summer annual.  Winter annuals bloom during the spring to mid-summer, while summer annuals bloom from mid-summer to fall.  It can be found growing in any cultivated soil and most lighting situations except for deep shade.  Being self-fertile, and spreads easily.

The flowers are followed by flat, heart-shaped seedpods that are pointed at the end.  This shape is said to resemble the leather purse of shepherds during the Middle Ages, thus the common name.  Each seedpod has around 20 shiny, ovoid-oblongoid seeds.  They can range in color from yellow to reddish-brown.

It has been noted that the seed attracts mosquitoes when placed in water.  It produces a gummy substance that binds the mosquitoes' mouth to the seed.  Seeds also emit a toxic substance to the larvae.  

When grown on salty/marshy land, it will absorb the salt and sweeten the soil.

The leaves, seeds and flowering shoots are edible, raw or cooked.  Prior to flowering, young leaves can be added to salads.  The seeds can be ground and used for flavoring in soups.  Fresh or dried root can be a substitute for ginger. 

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems:  Persons with high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, heart disease, or pregnant should avoid this plant.  Toxicity may cause sedation, pupil enlargement, and breathing difficulties. 

The seeds can remain viable in the ground for several, making this invasive plant difficult to eradicate.  Deer eat the leaves and stalks.  The seeds that are eaten pass through its digestive tract and remain viable, therefore can spread to other areas.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#invasive#weed#weedy#summer annual weed#winter annual weed#deer browsing plant#reseeds#annual weed#cool season weed#dry soils tolerant#short lived blooms
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#invasive#weed#weedy#summer annual weed#winter annual weed#deer browsing plant#reseeds#annual weed#cool season weed#dry soils tolerant#short lived blooms
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Capsella
    Species:
    bursa-pastoris
    Family:
    Brassicaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Young leaves can be used in salads and have a mild, peppery taste. The leaves are often used in tradtional Chinese cuisine. This plant is also rich in vitamin-K and has been used to treat nosebleeds and hemmorrhages.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eurasia, Africa
    Distribution:
    Worldwide
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts wildlife including bees, flies, butterflies and deer.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    The leaves are edible.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Weed
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    Less than 12 inches
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6a, 6b, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10b, 10a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are less than 1/8" (3 mm) across and each consists of 4 white petals, 4 greenish sepals, a pistil with a single style, and several stamens.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Rosulate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Oblanceolate
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Basal leaves have smooth edges when young becoming pinnately lobed as they mature. Basal rosettes can be up to 9" wide. Flowering stalks have alternate leaves that are also pinnately lobed, which also clasp to the stem. The lower sides of the leaves central veins are often covered with oppressed hairs.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are light green to dark reddish-purple. They are usually smooth on the upper side and appressed-hairy on the underside.
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Specialized Bees
    Problems:
    Invasive Species
    Weedy