Capsella bursa-pastoris (weed)

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Capsella bursa-pastoris with flowers and seed pods (click on image to enlarge it)
Author(s): H. Zell
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Capsella bursa-pastoris (weed) (L.) Medikus - (shepherds-purse)

The species is a widespread weed in temperate and subtropical regions which affects cereals and other crops like cotton, canola, beet or carrots. During trials in Sweden, it caused the highest losses in autumn-sown cereals, compared to other weeds.

It flowers all year round, except during the winter in cooler regions. The seeds also germinate year round and it can produce up to 4 generations per year. Under field conditions, the seed production has been estimated to range from 10,000 to 400,000 seeds per m2 (about 50,000 per plant). The seeds can survive for up to 30 years in the soil. For control, repeated tillage and herbicides are used. The leaves and roots are edible.

Vernacular names
• Deutsch: Hirtentäschelkraut
• English: shepherds-purse
• Español: bolsa de pastor
• Français: capselle bourse à pasteur

The plant has a basal rosette of lobed leaves from which the stem grows, up to a height of around 50 cm. The stem has a few branches with pointed leaves and small white flowers. The flowers have 4 petals and are 2-3 mm large. The seed pods have a characteristic flat and heart-shaped form (about 5 mm long) and are located on long stalks. Each pod contains about 10 tiny seeds. The tap root grows to a depth of almost 1 m.