Lepidium virginicum L. - Pepper Grass
Family - Brassicaceae
Stems - To +/-70cm tall, erect, herbaceous, typically single from the base and branching in upper 1/3, occasionally branching at the base, from a taproot, glabrous to puberulent.
Leaves - Alternate, the basal leaves typically wilted by anthesis, sessile, serrate (sometimes doubly) to entire, mostly glabrous, deep green above, to +/-5cm long, 1cm broad, oblanceolate to oblong or linear.
Inflorescence - Terminal and lateral racemes, compact in flower, quickly elongating in fruit, dense, to +/-10cm long. Pedicels 2-4mm long in flower, sparse puberulent adaxially, to 5mm in fruit, spreading.
Flowers - Petals 4, white, minute or sometimes absent, to 2mm long, 1mm broad, clawed. Stamens 2 or 4, erect. Filaments white, glabrous, to +1mm long. Anthers yellow. Ovary orbicular, compressed, glabrous, green, 1mm in diameter. Style wanting. Sepals 4, cupped, greenish-white, with scarious margins, glabrous, 1mm long, -1mm broad. Silicles to 3mm in diameter, green, glabrous, drying to a brownish color, with a small notch at apex.
Flowering - February - November.
Habitat - Fields, waste ground, disturbed sites, glades, prairies, pastures, roadsides, railroads.
Origin - Native to U.S.
Other info. - This species can be found throughout Missouri. The common name for the plant is "Pepper Grass" because the silicles have a peppery taste when ripe. The seeds are edible and are eaten by a variety of wildlife. This plant is weedy and can sometimes be found in profusion in the habitats mentioned above.
Photographs taken in Brown Summit, NC., 5-18-02.