Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd’s bag, pepper plant, shepherd’s heart, pick-pocket)

description: winter annual

place of origin:  Europe

urban habitat:  common in neglected lawns, minimally maintained parks, vacant lots, rubble dump sites, pavement openings.

ecological function:
disturbance-adapted colonizer of bare ground.

history: Capsella bursa-pastoris was introduced into North American shortly after European colonization in the 1600’s. The plant is now found in most parts of the world. Many cultures have used Capsella bursa-pastoris medicinally. Traditional European medicine used a tea made from the plant to stop internal bleeding and hemorrhaging. The plant has also been used as an astringent, stimulant, diruetic, and to accelerate childbirth and promote the healing of wounds. Many Native American tribes used the plant medicinally: the Cheyenne, Chippewa, Mohegan, and Mahuna used it for treatment of digestive problems, diarrhea, and headaches and the Menominee used it as a wash for treatment of poison ivy. Several tribes also consumed the plant and seeds as food. In the Shanghai region of China, the plant is consumed as food and in Korea, its roots are one of the ingredients in the dish namul.