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Shepherd’s Purse Floral Tip

Members of the genus Capsella, which is classified in the mustard family, are popularly known as shepherd’s purse. The common name stems from the unusual triangular, flattened seedpods characteristic of the genus that are reminiscent of simple leather purses.

Shepherd’s Purse Floral Tip

The small white flowers of the shepherd’s purse grow on racemes that develop from one or more stems that arise from the center of a rosette of basal leaves. The blossoms appear briefly and solely at the tip of the raceme. They are each comprised of four tiny petals and six sepals. When the flowers wane, the distinctive seedpods of the plant replace them.

Similar to many other plants, shepherd’s purse has been utilized for a number of different applications in traditional medicine, especially as a diuretic and to treat dysentery. Parts of the hardy annual are also edible. The leaves are sometimes utilized as salad greens and are most palatable when young and tender. Both the leaves and flowers of the shepherd’s purse can be utilized as potherbs. In some areas the plant is cultivated for such uses, but in other regions shepherd’s purse is considered a weed.

Additional Confocal Images of Shepherd’s Purse Floral Tip

Shepherd's Purse Floral Tip at High Magnification - Each seedpod of the shepherd's purse is comprised of two sections containing about 20 seeds apiece and extends out from the plant's raceme on a slender pedicel.

Contributing Authors

Nathan S. Claxton, Shannon H. Neaves, and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.