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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

shepherd's purse

Scientific Name: Capsella bursa pastoris

Family: Mustard Family (Brassicaceae)

General Description: Shepherd's purse is an annual or winter annual weed reproducing only by seed.

Habitat: Shepherd’s purse occurs throughout Ontario in grainfields, waste areas, roadsides, gardens and lawns.


  • Lobed basal leaves
  • Hairy lobes
  • Lobes or divisions are more or less uniform on each side
  • Can produce over 33,000 seeds per plant


  • Stems are erect
  • Stems extend 10 – 60 cm high
  • Stems are branched above or throughout


  • Grows from a rosette of lobed leaves at base
  • Leafs are alternate (1 per node)
  • The blades are very variable
  • The leaf blades are oblong
  • Leaf blades are 5 – 10 cm long
  • Shallowly to deeply and coarsely toothed

Flowers and Fruit

  • Flowers are white and small
  • Flowers produce seed pods which are heart-shaped
  • Flowers from early spring to late fall

Often Confused With / Distinguishing Features
It is distinguished from all of the other plants in the mustard family by having heart-shaped seedpods.

Herbicide Resistance
No documented cases of herbicide resistance in Ontario to date.  Shepherd's purse is resistant to WSSA Group 2 herbicides in Alberta and Saskatchewan.


Shepherd’s purse seedling Star-shaped hairs on the leaf surface of Shepherd’s purse Shepherd’s purse mature plant Heart shaped seedpod of Shepherd’s purseOrange-yellow seeds within the seedpodClick to enlarge.