What Does Shepherd’s Purse Look Like?

Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or just looking for ways to improve your landscaping, it’s important to know what plants to look for. Some plants are easy to identify, like rosebushes or petunias, while others can be a little more difficult.

One such plant is Shepherd’s Purse. This often overlooked weed can be invasive and spread quickly throughout your garden, but identifying it can be tricky. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at Shepherd’s Purse and teach you how to identify it in your own garden, how and where it grows, how to get rid of Shepherd’s Purse, and more.

So, what does Shepherd’s Purse look like? Here’s a guide to help you identify this weed.

What is Shepherd’s Purse?

The weed Capsella bursa-pastoris, also known as Shepherd’s Purse, is an annual weed that grows in lawns during the spring and summer. It is a plant in the mustard family that is native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia but has since been naturalized and is considered a common weed across almost every part of the planet.

Shepherd’s Purse is the second most prolific wild plant in the planet. It may be found on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica and Greenland, and thrives particularly well in more temperate areas like Great Britain, China, and North America. The name “Shepherd’s Purse” comes from the resemblance of its fruit capsule to shepherd’s staffs or bags.

In England and Scotland, it was formerly known as “mother’s heart,” which comes from a child’s game/trick of picking the seed pod, which then would burst and the kid would be charged with “breaking his mother’s heart.” In colonial New England, it was used as a substitute for pepper.

Where Does Shepherd’s Purse Grow?

Shepherd’s Purse prefers full sunlight and can reach a height of up to 20 inches when properly cared for. It may be found in disturbed ground, meadows, road sides, and lawns and garden areas.

This weed reproduces chiefly via seed, and it can create hundreds of seeds each year, which are readily dispersed by the wind and carried with ease on clothing, pets, shoes, and more.

How to Identify Shepherd’s Purse

Now we know some more about this weed, so the next step is to take a look at how to identify it. Let’s go through its visual characteristics, its growth patterns, as well as any other unique traits it has.

Visual Characteristics 

The Shepherd’s Purse is a weed with white flowers that have four petals, heart-shaped leaves, and seed pods; it resembles Queen Anne’s Lace or wild carrot. The flowers are extremely tiny – just .1 inches in diameter – yet hundreds of blooms might appear on a single stem or patch, giving the appearance of a solid white sheet over the field.

Shepherd’s purse has dark green heart-shaped leaves along its length, below the blooming flowers. It also has a rosette of pointed leaves that develop around the stem’s base.

The Shepherd’s Purse plant has a tiny seed head that resembles purses filled with seeds, hence the name. The seed capsules are thin, inflated silicles that are around 2 centimeters long and contain many seeds inside, which fall off the plant easily into your garden soil when they mature.

Growth Stages

Shepherd’s Purse can grow to be up to 8 inches tall during early summer and can reach up to 20 inches in height by late summer.

Unlike other flowering plants, Shepherd’s Purse produces flowers all throughout the year and has a short generation time, allowing one plant to generate numerous generations of new weeds.

Other Unique Traits

This plant is known as a proto-carnivore by scientists since it has been found that its seeds attract and destroy nematodes, allowing the soil to thrive and to help the weed grow stronger.

It is also grown commercially as a food crop in Asia. It’s stir-fried with rice cakes and other ingredients, or used as part of the filling for wontons.

Plants That Look Like Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherd’s Purse slightly resembles Mouse-Ear Cress, a.k.a. Thale Cress or Arabidopsis thaliana, which is also a weed that has thin stalks and small white flowers a top the stems. However, Mouse-Ear Cress doesn’t grow as tall as Shepherd’s Purse, it has fewer leaves along its stem, and the leaves are slightly purplish in color.

How to Get Rid of Shepherd’s Purse

Let’s look at the various ways to get rid of Shepherd’s Purse in your lawn. There are a variety of options that work and have been proven to help prevent this weed from harming your lawn and garden.

Firstly, if you hoe Shepherd’s Purse as soon as possible after it emerges, the stems from the taproots of seedlings will be removed and any blooming and seed production will be prevented. Non-flowering weeds may be composted carefully, but any flowering plants should be destroyed to prevent them from re-establishing.

If you are going to use a chemical weed killer on Shepherd’s Purse, use it before the plants can produce any seeds. Any weed killer that includes the active ingredient glyphosate should be effective against this weed.

In Conclusion

Shepherd’s Purse is a weed that often grows in fields, along the side of the road, and in other disturbed areas. It can be found growing in many parts of the world and has some unique visual characteristics that set it apart from other plants. There are also several plants that look similar to Shepherd’s Purse, so it’s important to learn how to identify this weed correctly.

Once you know what Shepherd’s Purse looks like, it should be easy to find and identify in a field or in your home backyard. This will then help you get rid of this weed if necessary.

If you’re ever unsure whether or not you’ve found Shepherd’s Purse, it’s always best to consult with a professional, or feel free to contact us, and we will be glad to help out! Thanks for reading this article, and we wish you the best of luck with your lawn work!