Lepidium virginicum L. - Pepper Grass

Lepidium virginicum plant

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.

Lepidium virginicum leaves

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.

Lepidium virginicum flowers

Lepidium virginicum flowers

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.


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