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Capsella bursa-pastoris - (L.)Medik.

Common Name Shepherd's Purse
Family Brassicaceae or Cruciferae
USDA hardiness 6-10
Known Hazards Signs of toxicity are sedation, pupil enlargement and breathing difficulty. Avoid if on treatments for high blood pressure. Avoid with thyroid gland disorders or heart disease. Possible addictive sedative effects with other depressants (e.g. Alcohol). Avoid during pregnancy [301].
Habitats Arable land, gardens, waste places etc, it is a common weed of cultivated soil[9, 17].
Range A virtually cosmopolitan plant, found in most regions of the world including Britain.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherd

Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherd


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Capsella bursa-pastoris is a ANNUAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower all year, and the seeds ripen all year. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs). The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Thlaspi bursa-pastoris. Bursa abscissa. Bursa druceana. Capsella concava.

Plant Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses: Condiment  Oil

Leaves - raw or cooked[2, 4, 5, 52, 94]. The young leaves, used before the plant comes into flower, make a fine addition to salads[9]. The leaves are a cress and cabbage substitute[12], becoming peppery with age[172]. Leaves are usually available all year round, though they can also be dried for later use[12]. The leaves contain about 2.9% protein, 0.2% fat, 3.4% carbohydrate, 1% ash. They are rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C[179]. A zero moisture basis analysis is available[218]. The young flowering shoots can be eaten raw or cooked[264]. They are rather thin and fiddly but the taste is quite acceptable. They can be available at most times of the year. Seed - raw or cooked[94, 172]. It can be ground into a meal and used in soups etc[102, 183]. It is very fiddly to harvest and utilize, the seed is very small[85]. The seed contains 35% of a fatty oil[179]. This oil can be extracted and is edible[74]. The seedpods can be used as a peppery seasoning for soups and stews[183]. The fresh or dried root is a ginger substitute[85, 172, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Leaves (Dry weight)
  • 280 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 35.6g; Fat: 4.2g; Carbohydrate: 44.1g; Fibre: 10.2g; Ash: 16.1g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 1763mg; Phosphorus: 729mg; Iron: 40.7mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 3939mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 21949mg; Thiamine (B1): 2.12mg; Riboflavin (B2): 1.44mg; Niacin: 3.4mg; B6: 0mg; C: 305mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiscorbutic  Astringent  Cancer  Diuretic  Emmenagogue  Haemostatic  Homeopathy  Hypotensive  
Oxytoxic  Stimulant  Urinary  Vasoconstrictor  Vasodilator  Vitamin C  Vulnerary

Shepherd's purse is little used in herbalism, though it is a commonly used domestic remedy, being especially efficacious in the treatment of both internal and external bleeding, diarrhoea etc[4, 222]. A tea made from the whole plant is antiscorbutic, astringent, diuretic, emmenagogue, haemostatic, hypotensive, oxytocic, stimulant, vasoconstrictor, vasodilator and vulnerary[4, 7, 9, 13, 21, 46, 147, 165, 172, 176, 222]. A tea made from the dried herb is considered to be a sovereign remedy against haemorrhages of all kinds - the stomach, the lungs, the uterus and more especially the kidneys[4, 222]. The plant can be used fresh or dried, for drying it is harvested in the summer[9]. The dried herb quickly loses its effectiveness and should not be stored for more than a year[9]. Clinical trials on the effectiveness of this plant as a wound herb have been inconclusive[244]. It appears that either it varies considerably in its effectiveness from batch to batch, or perhaps a white fungus that is often found on the plant contains the medically active properties[244]. The plant has been ranked 7th amongst 250 potential anti-fertility plants in China[218]. It has proven uterine-contracting properties and is traditionally used during childbirth[222]. The plant is a folk remedy for cancer - it contains fumaric acid which has markedly reduced growth and viability of Ehrlich tumour in mice[218]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the fresh plant[4]. It is used in the treatment of nose bleeds and urinary calculus[7]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Capsella bursa-pastoris Shepherd's Purse for nose bleeds, premenstrual syndrome, wounds & burns (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Insecticide  Oil  Soil reclamation

The seed, when placed in water, attracts mosquitoes. It has a gummy substance that binds the insects mouth to the seed[201]. The seed also releases a substance toxic to the larvae. ½ kilo of seed is said to be able to kill 10 million larvae[172]. Plants can be grown on salty or marshy land in order to reclaim it by absorbing the salt and 'sweetening' the soil[201]. Birds are very fond of the seeds of shepherd's purse[201]. Dynamic accumulator.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Dynamic accumulator

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Plants flourish in most soils[17]. They will grow even in the poorest of soils, though in such a situation the plants might only reach a few centimetres tall before they flower and set seed[4]. In rich soils plants will take longer to go to seed and will grow up to 60cm tall[4]. Shepherd's purse is a very common garden weed that can spread freely in cultivated ground. It is usually in flower and producing seed in all months of the year. This species is a prime example of how a plant can be viewed as an annoying weed in some areas of the world whilst in others it is actually cultivated for its wide range of uses[4, 183]. The plant is extensively cultivated in some areas of the world as a cabbage-flavoured spring greens[268], in Japan it is one of the essential ingredients of a ceremonial rice and barley gruel that is eaten on January 7th[183]. The leaves grow rather larger under cultivation, they can be harvested about a month after sowing and can be treated as a cut and come again crop[206]. They do run to seed fairly rapidly, however, especially in hot dry weather or when in poor soils[206, K]. A member of the cabbage family, it is a host plant for many diseases of Brassicas[200].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ February to May. Seed can also be sown as late as mid autumn[206]. A common weed of disturbed ground, the plant does not normally need any help to maintain itself[K].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Badman’s Oatmeal, Borsa del pastore, Capsell, Chalne, Chinese cress, Chmso, Didicai, Entanenga, Hiirekorv, Laihyane, Mother's heart, Naengi, Naeng-i, Nazuna, Qi, Rusomaca, Shepherd's heart, Water chestnut vegetable, Zijisuana, Spanish: bolsa de pastor. French: bourse-à-pasteur; capselle bourse à pasteur. Portuguese: bolsa-do-pastor. Denmark: almindelig hyrdetaske. Egypt: kees el-raat. Finland: lutukka. Germany: Hirtentäschelkraut. Italy: borsa pastore. Japan: nazuna. Netherlands: herderstasje. Sweden: lomme.

Africa, Angola, Asia, Australia, Balkans, Bhutan, Bosnia, Botswana, Britain, Burundi, Canada, Central Africa, China, Congo, Croatia, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, East Africa, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Europe, Finland, Haiti, India, Indochina, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mediterranean, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, North Africa, North America, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, SE Asia, Senegal, Southern Africa, South America, Tanzania, Tasmania, Thailand, Tibet, Turkey, Uganda, USA, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

This plant can be weedy or invasive.Present on arable land in nearly all temperate parts of the world in practically all crops, gardens, lawns, non-cultivated areas, roadsides and waste grounds.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Sony Kim   Tue Mar 21 2006

Where do I obtain seeds to plant in my backyard? Sony Kim

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