Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Southern Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Common Shepherd's Purse
Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medik
- Family: Mustard (Brassicaceae)
- Flowering: January-December
- Field Marks: This white-flowered mustard differs from other members of the mustard
family by its triangular-shaped fruits and its deeply lobed leaves clustered at the base of the
- Habitat: Old fields, pastures, disturbed open soil, along streams, wet meadows.
- Habit: Annual herb with a taproot.
- Stems: Upright, often branched, more or less hairy, up to 1 1/2 feet tall.
- Leaves: Mostly basal, a few on the stem; basal leaves usually deeply pinnately lobed, pointed
at the tip, tapering to the base, hairy, up to 5 inches long; stem leaves alternate, toothed or
toothless, pointed at the tip, clasping the stem at the base, much smaller than the basal leaves.
- Flowers: Several in a terminal raceme; each flower on a slender stalk.
- Sepals: 4, green, free from each other, hairy, much shorter than the petals.
- Petals: 4, white, free from each other, broadly rounded at the tip, up to 1/8 inch long.
- Stamens: 6.
- Pistils: Ovary superior.
- Fruits: Triangular, notched at the tip, tapering to the base, smooth, up to 1/3 inch long,
containing numerous orange-yellow seeds.
- Notes: This species is a native of Europe. The young leaves of the common shepherd's purse
can be cooked and eaten as a green vegetable.
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