Shepherd's Purse

©Northeast Wildlife

Shepherd's Purse

Scientific name: Capsella bursa-pastoris
Shepherd's Purse is often considered a 'weed'. It produces a lot of seeds and can be found on cultivated and disturbed land, such as arable fields, tracks and gardens.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 35cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

Shepherd's Purse is a widespread annual of cultivated land, including fields, farmland, tracks, roadside verges and gardens. It gets its common name from its heart-shaped seed pods, which resemble little pouches that were worn by medieval peasants. It flowers all year-round and is known for producing a lot of seeds - a single plant can produce 2,000-3,000 seeds, which are long-lived in the soil, germinating when the ground is disturbed.

How to identify

Shepherd's Purse can be recognised by its green, heart-shaped seed pods which are held out on thin stalks. Small, white flowers appear in clusters at the top of the stems.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

When the seed pods of Shepherd's Purse break open, they release copper-coloured seeds - a little bit like coins.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try leaving wilder areas in your garden, such as patches of buttercups in your lawn or nettles near your compost heap, to see who comes to visit? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.