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Virginia Pepperweed Lepidium virginicum


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Virginia Pepperweed
credit: Frank Mayfield/CCSA

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Alternate name: Poorman's Pepperwort, Poorman's Pepper, Peppergrass

Family: Brassicaceae, Mustard view all from this family

Description Short, flat, rounded fruits notched at the tip, very tiny white flowers with only 2 stamens, and toothed leaves characterize this weed of croplands.
Habit: native annual, biennial or short-lived perennial herb; upright, branched, usually somewhat hairy stems; slender taproot.
Height: 6-28 in (15-70 cm)
Leaf: in basal rosette, stalked, obovate to spatulate, deeply toothed or lobed with large terminal lobe, usually somewhat hairy, to 6 in (150 mm) long, to 2 in (50 mm) wide; on stem, alternate, lanceolate to linear, sometimes toothed, usually hairy, to 2.5 in (63 mm) long, 0.125-0.4 in (3-10 mm) wide; the basal rosette withers soon after the stems are produced.
Flower: tiny, white or greenish-white, 1/32 in (1 mm) long, 4 petals, 2 stamens; held in long, narrow terminal cluster resembling a bottlebrush.
Fruit: pods flat, oval to spherical, notched at tip, with very small wings above; to 0.125 (3 mm) across.

Flower February to November.

Habitat Old fields, pastures, prairies, glades, disturbed areas, waste places and roadsides.

Range Throughout of North America, except central and far northern Canada.

Discussion Also known as common pepperweed, Virginia peppergrass, Virginia peppercress, peppergrass, poor man's pepper. Several varieties and subspecies are proposed. Considered weedy or invasive in some areas. This prolific weed is one of the most common pepperweeds. Its seeds have a peppery taste and can be used to season soups and stews; the young leaves are used in salads or cooked as greens.

The hairy Field Pepperweed (L. campestre) has six stamens, leaves that clasp the stem, and fruiting pods longer than broad. Clasping Pepperweed (L. perfoliatum) is a striking species with minute yellow flowers, basal and lower leaves that are finely cut and fern-like, and circular upper leaves that wrap around the stem.