Capsella bursa-pastoris

Capsella bursa-pastoris, known as shepherd's purse because of its triangular flat fruits, which are purse-like, is a small annual and ruderal flowering plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae).[2] It is native to eastern Europe and Asia minor,[3] but is naturalized and considered a common weed in many parts of the world, especially in colder climates,[4] including British Isles,[5] where it is regarded as an archaeophyte,[6][7] North America[8][9] and China,[10] but also in the Mediterranean and North Africa.[3] C. bursa-pastoris is the second-most prolific wild plant in the world,[10] and is common on cultivated ground and waysides and meadows.[11]

Shepherd's purse
A Field of Shepherd’s-purse.jpg
Flowering and fruiting
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Brassicales
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Capsella
C. bursa-pastoris
Binomial name
Capsella bursa-pastoris
    • Bursa abscissa (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa alandica (Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa anglica (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa astoris Weber
    • Bursa batavorum (Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa belgica (Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa bremensis (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa brittonii (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa bursa-pastoris (L.) Shafer
    • Bursa bursa-pastoris var. heteris Shull
    • Bursa bursa-pastoris var. integrifolia Farw.
    • Bursa bursa-pastoris var. minor Farw.
    • Bursa bursa-pastoris var. rhomboidea Shull
    • Bursa bursa-pastoris var. simplex (Hus) Shull
    • Bursa bursa-pastoris var. tenuis Shull
    • Bursa concava (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa divaricata (Walp.) Kuntze
    • Bursa djurdjurae Shull
    • Bursa druceana (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa gallica (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa germanica (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa grossa (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa heegeri (Solms) Shull
    • Bursa hiatula (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa integrella (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa laevigata (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa mediterranea (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa occidentalis var. concava Shull
    • Bursa occidentalis subsp. madeirae Shull
    • Bursa orientalis Shull
    • Bursa origo (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa patagonica (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa penarthae Shull
    • Bursa pergrossa (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa robusta (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa segetum (E.B.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa sinuosa (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa sublaevigata (Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa trevirorum (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa turoniensis (E.G.Almq.) Druce
    • Bursa viguieri (Blaringhem) Shull
    • Bursa viminalis (Almq.) Druce
    • Capsella abscissa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella acutifolia Raf.
    • Capsella aestivalis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella agrestis Jord.
    • Capsella agrestis-rubella Paill.
    • Capsella alandica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella algida (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella alpestris (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella altissima (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella amblodes Raf.
    • Capsella angermannica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella anglica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella angustiloba (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella apetala Opiz
    • Capsella austriaca Sennen
    • Capsella autumnalis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella batavorum (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella belgica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella bicuspis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella bifida Raf.
    • Capsella biformis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella bottnica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella bremensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella brevisiliqua (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella brittonii (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella bursa Raf.
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris f. attenuata Hus
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris var. bifida Crép.
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris var. integrifolia DC.
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris var. minor DC.
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris var. pinnata Makino
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris f. pinnatifida (Schltr.) Jovan.-Dunj.
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris var. rubriflora Muschl.
    • Capsella bursa-pastoris var. stenocarpa Crép.
    • Capsella calmariensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella caucasica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella cavata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella collina (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella compacta (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella convexiformis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella cordata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella coroncpus (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella cuneiformis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella cuneolata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella curvisiliqua (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella cuspidata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella dentata Raf.
    • Capsella denticulata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella difformis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella diodonta (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella divaricata Walp.
    • Capsella druceana (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella elegans (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella emarginata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella erecta Walp.
    • Capsella exotica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella faucialis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella foliosa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella frigida (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella fucorum (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella furcata Raf.
    • Capsella galicica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella gallica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella germanica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella gothica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella gotlandica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella gracilescens (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella grossa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella grossotriangularis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella hanseatica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella heegeri Solms
    • Capsella helsingica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella herjedalica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella hians (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella hiatula (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella hiemalis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella hispida Hobk.
    • Capsella humilis Rouy & Foucaud
    • Capsella hyrcana Grossh.
    • Capsella incisura (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella integrella (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella integrifolia Hegetschw.
    • Capsella integrifolia Raf.
    • Capsella jemtlandica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella jeniseiensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella kyphosa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella lacerata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella laevigata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella lanceolatocaspica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella latisiliqua (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella lenaensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella leptoloba (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella linearis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella lingulata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella lobulata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella longiracemosa Sennen
    • Capsella longirostris (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella longisiliqua (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella lulensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella lutetiana (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella macroclada (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella matura (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella mediterranea (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella microcarpa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella monasterialis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella nanella (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella nylandica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella obovata (Östman) Almq.
    • Capsella obtusa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella odontophylla (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella oelandica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella origo (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella oviculata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella ovifera (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella pastoralis Dulac
    • Capsella pastoris Rupr.
    • Capsella patagonica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella penarthae (Shull) Wilmott
    • Capsella perconcava (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella perdentata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella pergrossa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella perhians (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella perversa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella pinnata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella pinnatofoliosa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella poimenobalantion St.-Lag.
    • Capsella polymorpha Cav.
    • Capsella praecox Jord.
    • Capsella praematura (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella prionophylla (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella provincialis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella querceti (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella ramselensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella rhenana Almq.
    • Capsella rhombea (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella robusta (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella rubella (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella rubelliformis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella rubelloagrestis Paill.
    • Capsella rubiginosa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella ruderalis Jord.
    • Capsella salinula (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella savonica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella scanica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella scoliocaspica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella segetum (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella seleniaca (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella semilobata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella semirubella (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella sinuatolinearis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella sinuosa (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella smolandica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella stenocarpa (Crép.) Hobk.
    • Capsella stenocarpa Timb.-Lagr.
    • Capsella subalgida (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella subalpina (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella subarctica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella subbergiana (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella subcanescens (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella subcavata (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella subseleniaca (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella tenerescens (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella tibelensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella tjustiana (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella trevirorum (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella triangularis St.-Lag.
    • Capsella turoniensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella umensis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella ursina (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella varia (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella vestrogothica (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella viguieri Blaringhem
    • Capsella viminalis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Capsella virgata Jord.
    • Capsella viridis (E.B.Almq.) E.B.Almq.
    • Crucifera capsella E.H.L.Krause
    • Iberis bursa-pastoris Crantz
    • Lepidium bursa-pastoris Willd.
    • Nasturtium bursa-pastoris (L.) Roth
    • Opizia bursoides Raf.
    • Rodschiedia bursa-pastoris (Medik.) G.Gaertn., B.Mey. & Schreb.
    • Thlaspi bursa-pastoris L.
    • Thlaspi cuneatum Stokes
    • Thlaspi infestum Salisb.
    • Thlaspi schrankii J.F.Gmel.

Scientists have referred to this species as a 'protocarnivore', since it has been found that its seeds attract and kill nematodes as a means to locally enrich the soil.[12][13]


Pictured and published in 1486.[14]


Rosette (a), pointed leaves, flowers (c–e), pods (i, k)

Capsella bursa-pastoris plants grow from a rosette of lobed leaves at the base. From the base emerges a stem about 0.2–0.5 m (0.66–1.64 ft) tall, which bears a few pointed leaves which partly grasp the stem. The flowers, which appear in any month of the year in the British Isles,[11]: 56  are white and small, 2.5 mm (0.098 in) in diameter, with four petals and six stamens.[11] They are borne in loose racemes, and produce flattened, two-chambered seed pods known as silicles, which are triangular to heart-shaped, each containing several seeds.[9]

Like a number of other plants in several plant families, its seeds contain a substance known as mucilage, a condition known as myxospermy.[15] Recently, this has been demonstrated experimentally to perform the function of trapping nematodes, as a form of 'protocarnivory'.[12][13][16]

Capsella bursa-pastoris is closely related to the model organism such as Arabidopsis thaliana and is also used as a model organism, due to the variety of genes expressed throughout its life cycle that can be compared to genes that are well studied in A. thaliana. Unlike most flowering plants, it flowers almost all year round.[9][10] Like other annual ruderals exploiting disturbed ground, C. bursa-pastoris reproduces entirely from seed, has a long soil seed bank,[6] and short generation time,[3] and is capable of producing several generations each year.


It was formally described by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in his seminal publication Species Plantarum in 1753, and then published by Friedrich Kasimir Medikus in Pflanzen-Gattungen (Pfl.-Gatt.) on page 85 in 1792.[17][18]

Capsella bursa-pastoris subsp. thracicus (Velen.) Stoj. & Stef. is the only known subspecies.[17]

William Coles wrote in his book, Adam in Eden (1657), "It is called Shepherd's purse or Scrip (wallet) from the likeness of the seed hath with that kind of leathearne bag, wherein Shepherds carry their Victualls [food and drink] into the field."[19]

In England and Scotland, it was once commonly called 'mother's heart', which is derived from a child's game/trick of picking the seed pod, which then would burst and the child would be accused of 'breaking his mother's heart'.[19]


Capsella bursa-pastoris gathered from the wild or cultivated[20][21] has many uses, including for food,[10][21] to supplement animal feed,[20] for cosmetics,[20] and in traditional medicine[10][20]—reportedly to stop bleeding.[22] The plant can be eaten raw;[23] the leaves are best when gathered young.[24] Native Americans ground it into a meal and made a beverage from it.[22]


It is cultivated as a commercial food crop in Asia.[25] In China, where it is known as jìcài (荠菜; 薺菜) it is commonly used in food in Shanghai and the surrounding Jiangnan region. It is stir-fried with rice cakes and other ingredients or as part of the filling in wontons.[26] It is one of the ingredients of the symbolic dish consumed in the Japanese spring-time festival, Nanakusa-no-sekku. In Korea, it is known as naengi (냉이) and used as a root vegetable in the characteristic Korean dish, namul (fresh greens and wild vegetables).[27]

Shepherd's purse was used as a pepper substitute in colonial New England.[28]


Fumaric acid is one chemical substance that has been isolated from C. bursa-pastoris.[29]


Parasites of this plant include:[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medik". Plants of the World Online. Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  2. ^ Parnell, J. Curtis, T. (2012). Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-185918-4783.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b c Aksoy, A; Dixon, JM; Hale, WH (1998). "Biological flora of the British Isles. Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medikus (Thlaspi bursapastoris L., Bursa bursa-pastoris (L.) Shull, Bursa pastoris (L.) Weber)". Journal of Ecology. 86: 171–186. arXiv:1303.1393. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2745.1998.00260.x.
  4. ^ "Capsella bursa-pastoris". Flora of Pakistan.
  5. ^ Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. 1968. Excursion Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-04656-4
  6. ^ a b Preston CD, Pearman DA & Dines TD (2002) New Atlas of the British Flora. Oxford University Press
  7. ^ Preston, CD; Pearman, DA; Hall, AR (2004). "Archaeophytes in Britain". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 145 (3): 257–294. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2004.00284.x.
  8. ^ USDA PLANTS Profile: Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medik
  9. ^ a b c Blanchan, Neltje (2005). Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Capsella bursa-pastoris". Flora of China.
  11. ^ a b c Clapham, A.R.; Tutin, T.G.; Warburg, E.F. (1981). Excursion Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521232906.
  12. ^ a b Nature - Evidence for Facultative Protocarnivory in Capsella bursa-pastoris seeds
  13. ^ a b Telegraph - Tomatoes Can Eat Insects
  14. ^ Morton, A.G. (1981). History of Botanical Science'. Academic Press. pp. 96–97. ISBN 0125083823.
  15. ^ Tamara L. Western; Debra J. Skinner; George W. Haughn (February 2000). "Differentiation of Mucilage Secretory Cells of the Arabidopsis Seed Coat". Plant Physiology. 122 (2): 345–355. doi:10.1104/pp.122.2.345. PMC 58872. PMID 10677428.
  16. ^ Barber, J.T. (1978). "Capsella bursa-pastoris seeds: Are they "carnivorous"?" (PDF). Carnivorous Plant Newsletter. 7 (2): 39–42.
  17. ^ a b "Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medik. is an accepted name". 23 March 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  18. ^ "Brassicaceae Capsella bursa-pastoris Medik". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  19. ^ a b Reader's Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain. Reader's Digest. 1981. p. 54. ISBN 9780276002175.
  20. ^ a b c d "Capsella bursa-pastoris (Ecocrop code 4164)". ecocrop. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  21. ^ a b "Capsella bursa-pastoris - (L.)Medik". Plants For A Future database report.
  22. ^ a b Nyerges, Christopher (2017). Foraging Washington: Finding, Identifying, and Preparing Edible Wild Foods. Guilford, CT: Falcon Guides. ISBN 978-1-4930-2534-3. OCLC 965922681.
  23. ^ Nyerges, Christopher (2016). Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America: More than 150 Delicious Recipes Using Nature's Edibles. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-4930-1499-6.
  24. ^ Benoliel, Doug (2011). Northwest Foraging: The Classic Guide to Edible Plants of the Pacific Northwest (Rev. and updated ed.). Seattle, WA: Skipstone. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-59485-366-1. OCLC 668195076.
  25. ^ Mills, David (March 11, 2014). Nature's Restaurant: Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America - A Complete Wild Food Guide.
  26. ^ Samuels, Debra (12 May 2015). "This Chinese grandma forages and cooks". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  27. ^ Pratt, Keith L.; Richard Rutt; James Hoare (1999). Korea: a historical and cultural dictionary. Richmond, Surrey.: Curzon Press. p. 310. ISBN 978-0-7007-0464-4.
  28. ^ Hussey, Jane Strickland (Jul–Sep 1974). "Some Useful Plants of Early New England". Economic Botany. 28 (3): 311–337. doi:10.1007/BF02861428. JSTOR 4253521. S2CID 12764441.
  29. ^ Kuroda, K.; Akao, M.; Kanisawa, M.; Miyaki, K. (1976). "Inhibitory effect of Capsella bursa-pastoris extract on growth of Ehrlich solid tumor in mice". Cancer Research. 36 (6): 1900–1903. PMID 1268843.

External linksEdit