Capsella Silicles
Shepherd’s Purse Fruits, Courtesy of Hiroyuki Takeda, Flickr

Shepherd’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris

By Johann Georg Sturm, via Wikimedia Commons

Family: Brassicaceae, the Mustard Family


Description: Non-native herb 10-75cm tall. Flowers with 4 white petals, leaves alternately arranged, the lowest deeply lobed, fruit a heart-shaped silicle (photo)


Abundance: Common

Habitat: Gardens, open areas, lawns, roadsides

Plant Parts Used: Fruit, seeds, leaves

Food: Seasoning, salad

Medicine: Bleeding problems

Both Sue and John mentioned enjoying shepherd’s purse as a nice spicy seasoning; they both described the leaves, seeds, and fruits tasting similar to pepper. Sue also enjoys the leaves as a spring green or in salads. Terry-Anya described this plant as being especially helpful for bleeding problems. Deb told me that a fresh tincture of the fruits and flowers, especially if combined with yarrow, are helpful for heavy bleeding, including menstrual bleeding and post-partum bleeding. She also said that the dried plant has no medicinal value, so it must be used fresh.

Caution: Shepherd’s purse should not be used in large quantities during pregnancy.

Note: This post is part of my Plants and People series. See my Plants and People page for more information about the project and the people referenced in this post.


  • Brooks, John. Personal Interview. 28 Nov. 2010.
  • Hayes, Terry-Anya. Personal interview. 27 Oct. 2010.
  • Michener, Martin C. Botany Everywhere: Woods, Field, Home, and Garden Plants of NE USA, Third Edition. Hollis, NH: MIST Software Associates, Inc., 2009. PDF.
  • Mittelhauser, Glen H., Linda L. Gregory, Sally C. Rooney, and Jill E. Weber. The Plants of Acadia National Park. Orono, Me.: University of Maine, 2010. Print.
  • Soule, Deb. Personal interview. 4 Feb. 2011.
  • Szwed, Sue. Personal interview. 12 Nov. 2010.
  • Turner, Nancy J., and Patrick Von Aderkas. The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms. Portland: Timber, 2009. Print.