Down Garden Services


Shepherd's Purse

Scientific Name: Capsella bursa-pastoris
Other names: Case-weed, Lady's Purse, Mother's Heart, Pick-purse
Family: Brassicaceae or Cruciferae

This ephemeral can be an annual or a biennial and spreads by seed. The distinctive heart-shaped seed capsules are the same shape as the leather pouches carried by medieval peasants so gave rise to the most frequently used common name, although it has others, but they also derive from this shape. The lobed, hairy leaves form a basal rosette. They can be added to salads, as can the immature seed pods. The young leaves have high levels of flavonoid antioxidants, omega-6 poluunsaturated fats and vitamins A, C and K. There are astringent properties and an infusion of the aerial parts is useful for checking diarrhoea, its styptic properties make it useful to stem bleeding. It was used during the First World War to stem bleeding when other styptics such as ergot ran out.
It is a member of Cruciferae Family so can be an alternative host for club root disease which affects brassica vegetables such as cabbages and turnips, so it is important to remove it in the vegetable plot.
Small white, four petal flowers are found all year round.
Height - up to 45 cm.
Hoe or hand pull and if seed capsules are present remove the uprooted plants. The slender roots can be eaten, they have a mild radish-like flavour.
Weedkillers to use:-
A residual herbicide to prevent germination.
Paraquat, Diquat, contact action killing top growth, apply before flowering.

Nicholas Culpepper
(17th century astrologer-physician)
"It helps all fluxes of blood, caused by inward or outward wounds. It is also used where there is flux of the belly and bloody flux, and spitting and voiding of blood. It will stop the terms in women. Made into a poultice, the herb helps inflammation and St Anthony's fire. The juice dropped into the ears, heals the pains. noise and matterings thereof. A good ointment may be made of it for all wounds, especially those of the head."
Flux - excess flow of any body secretion.
St Anthony's fire - acute inflammatory disease of the skin.

picture of Shepherd's Purse, flowers and fruit

Follow these links for further details on Weeds, Weed Removal and Weed Prevention.
Back to article on herbs