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Shepherds-purse: a winter cress

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Shepherds-purse: a winter cress

This is a tough little character! Even in the depths of winter you can find shepherd's-purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) in flower. I have no idea what pollinates it at such a difficult time of year for insects but somehow it must be worth this plant flowering.

Normally a weed of cultivation it thrives in gardens, field edges and areas of disturbed earth but it can also grow where there is minimal soil and can be found in roadside gutters and drains and in other bare, waste places. I have even seen it growing on concrete. The size of the plant does vary considerably, the harsher the conditions the smaller it is, but in summer and in favourable soil it can grow to be quite a strong plant.

It is called shepherd's-purse because the seeds are heart-shaped and look like little purses and this is one of the easiest ways to identify this species. It is a member of the cabbage family (crucifereae) with tiny flowers but the seed 'purses' are much more visible.

It is known have medicinal properties and is used in alternative medicines across much of the world as well as being eaten in salads. It is not thought to be a native species to the United Kingdom but was introduced long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492! Try Wikipedia if you want to know more about why this date is significant - archaeophyte 


 

If you would like to see the complete series that this post is part of click here ---->
This nature note was written by ----> Peter Orchard
This nature nore was written ----> 2 years 8 months ago

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