Capsella bursa-pastoris - Shepherd's Purse

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Brassicales - Family: Brassicaceae

Flowers of Capsella bursa-pastoris, Shepherd's Purse

Shepherd's Purse is one of our most common annual wildflowers, and because it blooms throughout the year there are nearly always a few of its distinctive seed pods in evidence to help confirm its identity.


Four-sided stems typically 30 to 40 cm tall arise from a rosette of pinnately-lobed basal leaves with smaller arrow-shaped leaves up the stems, which are topped by loose racemes of white, four-petalled flowers. The seed pods are heart shaped (often likened to a medieval pouch-like draw-string purse).


All sorts of grassland, track edges and field margins are colonised by this prolific and ubiquitous wildflower, one plant of which can produce up to 3000 seeds.

Basal leaf rosette of Capsella bursa-pastoris, Shepherd's Purse

Flowering times

Shepherd's Purse can be seen in flower throughout the year except for periods of prolonged, heavy frost. The seeds can survive in the soil for many years, germinating as soon as disturbance brings them near to the surface.

Seeds of Capsella bursa-pastoris, Shepherd's Purse


This wildflower has been used in homeopathic medicine as a treatment for kidney and gall bladder diseases as well as being considered effective in preventing scurvy.

Volume 1

We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O'Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here...

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