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Shepherd's Purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Brassicaceae (Cabbage)
Also in this family:
Alpine Pennycress, Alpine Rock-cress, American Wintercress, Annual Wall Rocket, Austrian Yellowcress, Awlwort, Bastard Cabbage, Black Mustard, Bristol Rock-cress, Charlock, Common Scurvygrass, Common Whitlowgrass, Coralroot, Creeping Yellowcress, Cuckooflower, Dame's-violet, Danish Scurvygrass, Dittander, Early Wintercress, Eastern Rocket, English Scurvygrass, Evergreen Candytuft, False London Rocket, Field Pennycress, Field Pepperwort, Flixweed, Garden Arabis, Garden Candytuft, Garden Cress, Garden Radish, Garden Rocket, Garlic Mustard, Glabrous Whitlowgrass, Gold of Pleasure, Great Yellowcress, Greater Cuckooflower, Greater Periwinkle, Greater Swinecress, Hairy Bittercress, Hairy Rock-cress, Hairy Rocket, Hairy Whitlowgrass, Hedge Mustard, Hoary Cress, Hoary Mustard, Hoary Stock, Hoary Whitlowgrass, Honesty, Horseradish, Hutchinsia, Hybrid Watercress, Intermediate Periwinkle, Isle of Man Cabbage, Large Bittercress, Lesser Swinecress, London Rocket, Lundy Cabbage, Marsh Yellowcress, Mountain Scurvygrass, Narrow-fruited Watercress, Narrow-leaved Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Pepperwort, Northern Rock-cress, Northern Yellowcress, Oilseed Rape, Perennial Rocket, Perennial Wall Rocket, Perfoliate Pennycress, Pinnate Coralroot, Purple Rock-cress, Pyrenean Scurvygrass, Rock Whitlowgrass, Russian Rocket, Scottish Scurvygrass, Sea Kale, Sea Radish, Sea Rocket, Sea Stock, Shepherd's Cress, Small-flowered Wintercress, Smith's Pepperwort, Steppe Cabbage, Swede, Sweet Alyssum, Tall Rocket, Thale Cress, Tower Mustard, Treacle Mustard, Trefoil Cress, Turnip, Wall Whitlowgrass, Wallflower, Wallflower Cabbage, Warty Cabbage, Watercress, Wavy Bittercress, White Mustard, Wild Cabbage, Wild Candytuft, Wild Radish, Wild Turnip, Wintercress, Woad, Yellow Whitlowgrass
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
70 centimetres tall
Fields, gardens, lawns, meadows, roadsides, wasteland.

White, 4 petals
White, forming loose clusters, 4 petals, 6 yellowish-green stamens.
Many distinctive heart-shaped fruits, up to 9mm wide. Many-seeded and stalked.
This is an overwintering flower. A basal rosette is present. The stem leaves are short-stalked and alternate along the stems. The leaves can be toothed or untoothed. They are linear in shape with arrow-shaped lobes at their bases.
Slightly fragrant.
Other Names:
Blind Weed, Caseweed, Chinese Cress, Cocowort, Common Shepherd's Purse, Lady's Purse, Locowort, Mother's Heart, Pick-pocket, Pick-purse, Poor Man's Parmacettie, Rattle Pouches, Sanguinary, Shepherd's Heart, Shepherd's Scrip, Shepherd's Sprout, Shovelweed, St James's Weed, Tabouret, Toywort, Witches' Pouches.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Capsella bursa-pastoris, also known as shepherd's purse, is a small annual plant in the Brassicaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and can be found growing wild in fields, roadsides, and other disturbed areas. The plant is known for its small white flowers and triangular shaped seedpods that resemble a purse. It is often used in traditional medicine and herbalism, and is considered to be a common weed. The plant is known for its medicinal uses, particularly in the treatment of bleeding and diarrhea.


Shepherd's purse, scientifically known as Capsella bursa-pastoris, is a common weed found throughout the world. It belongs to the mustard family and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics of this plant, its medicinal uses, and other interesting facts.

Characteristics of Shepherd's Purse

Shepherd's purse is an annual plant that can grow up to 70 cm tall. It has a rosette of basal leaves that are deeply lobed and toothed. The stem is slender and upright, and the plant produces tiny white flowers that bloom from spring to fall. The flowers have four petals and are arranged in a raceme at the top of the stem. After the flowers are pollinated, the plant produces heart-shaped seed pods, which resemble little purses, hence the name Shepherd's purse.

Medicinal uses of Shepherd's Purse

Shepherd's purse has been used in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments. It contains compounds such as flavonoids, tannins, and alkaloids, which are responsible for its medicinal properties. Here are some of the traditional uses of Shepherd's purse:

  1. Treating menstrual disorders: Shepherd's purse has been traditionally used to alleviate menstrual cramps and regulate menstrual cycles. It is believed to have astringent and vasoconstrictive properties that can help reduce heavy bleeding.

  2. Healing wounds: Shepherd's purse has been used topically to help wounds heal faster. Its astringent and hemostatic properties can help stop bleeding and reduce inflammation.

  3. Reducing high blood pressure: Shepherd's purse has been traditionally used to lower high blood pressure. It is believed to have diuretic properties that can help remove excess fluids from the body and reduce blood pressure.

Other interesting facts about Shepherd's Purse

  1. Shepherd's purse is considered a weed in many parts of the world, but it is also cultivated for its medicinal properties in some countries.

  2. The plant is used as a food source in some cultures. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and are said to have a slightly bitter taste.

  3. Shepherd's purse is a common host plant for the diamondback moth, a major pest of cruciferous crops.

In conclusion, Shepherd's purse is a versatile plant that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. Its astringent, hemostatic, and diuretic properties make it useful for treating a variety of ailments. Despite being considered a weed in some regions, it is a valuable medicinal plant that is worth learning more about.

Additional Facts about Shepherd's Purse

Here are some additional facts about Shepherd's purse:

  1. Historical use: Shepherd's purse has a long history of medicinal use. It was mentioned in the ancient Greek medical texts of Hippocrates and Dioscorides, and was used by Native American tribes for a variety of ailments.

  2. Modern medical research: Recent studies have shown that Shepherd's purse may have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and anti-diabetic properties. Its active compounds have been found to have potential in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

  3. Folklore: The plant's name "Shepherd's purse" is said to come from its use by shepherds to stop bleeding in their sheep. In some cultures, it is believed that carrying the plant can bring good luck and protect against evil spirits.

  4. Distribution: Shepherd's purse is a cosmopolitan plant, meaning it can be found in many parts of the world. It is commonly found in Europe, Asia, and North America, but has also been introduced to South America and Australia.

  5. Culinary uses: Besides being used for medicinal purposes, Shepherd's purse is also edible. Its young leaves and stems can be added to salads or cooked as a vegetable. In some parts of China, the seeds are ground into a flour and used to make noodles.

Overall, Shepherd's purse is a fascinating plant with a rich history of medicinal and culinary use. While it is often considered a weed, its many benefits make it a valuable plant to learn about and appreciate.

More Information

Here are some additional pieces of information about Shepherd's Purse:

  1. Habitat: Shepherd's purse is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of habitats, including fields, roadsides, waste areas, and gardens. It prefers well-drained soil and can tolerate both sun and shade.

  2. Growth cycle: Shepherd's purse is an annual plant, meaning it completes its life cycle in one year. The plant germinates in the spring, grows throughout the summer, and produces flowers and seeds in the fall. The seeds can then germinate the following spring, starting the cycle anew.

  3. Propagation: Shepherd's purse reproduces by seed, and each plant can produce thousands of seeds. The seeds are small and can be carried by the wind, animals, or water to new locations.

  4. Other names: Besides Shepherd's purse, this plant is also known by other common names, such as "mother's heart," "lady's purse," and "toywort."

  5. Traditional uses around the world: Shepherd's purse has been used in traditional medicine by various cultures around the world. In China, it is used to treat nosebleeds, diarrhea, and to reduce swelling. In Europe, it has been used to treat respiratory infections and digestive issues. Native American tribes have used the plant for conditions such as arthritis and bladder infections.

  6. Folklore and superstitions: In addition to its medicinal uses, Shepherd's purse has also been associated with various folklore and superstitions. In some parts of Europe, it was believed that carrying a sprig of the plant could prevent someone from getting lost. In other cultures, it was thought to be a symbol of fertility and was sometimes used in love potions.

Overall, Shepherd's purse is a versatile plant that has played an important role in traditional medicine and folklore throughout history. Its ability to grow in a variety of habitats and its many uses make it an interesting and important plant to learn about.

And some more facts...

Here are some additional facts about Shepherd's purse:

  1. Appearance: Shepherd's purse is a small, annual plant that typically grows to be between 10-50 cm (4-20 inches) in height. The leaves are deeply lobed and have a distinctive shape that resembles a shepherd's purse or a heart. The plant produces small, white flowers that give way to seed pods that are shaped like tiny purses.

  2. Edible and medicinal properties: Besides being used for medicinal purposes, Shepherd's purse is also edible. The leaves, flowers, and seed pods are all edible and can be used in salads, soups, and stir-fries. The plant is high in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Additionally, the plant has been used to stop bleeding and to relieve menstrual cramps.

  3. Invasive species: Shepherd's purse is considered an invasive species in some parts of the world, such as North America and Australia. The plant can spread rapidly and can compete with native species for resources. In areas where it is invasive, Shepherd's purse can be difficult to control.

  4. Cultivation: If you want to cultivate Shepherd's purse in your garden, it's relatively easy to grow. The plant prefers well-drained soil and can be grown from seed. It can be sown in the spring or fall and will germinate within a week or two.

  5. Conservation status: While Shepherd's purse is not a threatened species, some conservation organizations are concerned about the impact that invasive plants like Shepherd's purse can have on native ecosystems. It's important to be aware of the potential impact of introducing non-native plants into a new area.

  6. Symbolic meanings: In addition to its uses in medicine and cooking, Shepherd's purse has also been used as a symbol in various cultures. In China, the plant is associated with wealth and is often given as a gift during the Chinese New Year. In some European cultures, the plant is associated with love and is sometimes given as a token of affection.


Shepherd's Purse filmed in Adlington, Lancashire on the 9th July 2022.


Music credits
Amazing Plan - Distressed by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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