E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medik.
shepherd's purse
Brassicaceae (Mustard family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #3801)

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Distribution of Capsella bursa-pastoris
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Shepherd's purse is an annual tap-rooted, introduced European species that is found in North America across Canada and in all but one US state (Puerto Rico) (USDA 2011). This species begins to flower early in lowland areas in BC (February/March). It is found in disturbed sites (roadsides, fields and waste places) in the lowland, steppe and montane zones. It is readily identifiable because of the distinctive fruits (heart-shaped silicles).

Species Information

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Annual herb from a taproot; stems simple to branched, 10-50 cm long, with simple and starlike hairs.
Basal leaves in rosettes, stalked, 3-6 cm long, oblanceolate, more or less entire to pinnately lobed or dissected; stem leaves unstalked and clasping, lanceolate to oblong-oblanceolate, mostly remotely saw-toothed, with earlike lobes at the base.
Inflorescene a many-flowered raceme; flower stalks slender, spreading, 7-15 mm long; petals white, with a distinct stalklike base, 1.5-4 mm long; sepals 2 mm long.
Silicles, heart-shaped to triangular, 4-8 mm long, 3-5 mm wide, strongly flattened, broad at tip, squared-off to slightly notched; seeds numerous, minutely net-veined.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Mesic to dry roadsides, fields and waste places in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; common throughout BC; introduced from Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Capsella bursa-pastoris

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 328 694 1010
Slope Gradient (%) 0 10 28
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
37 172 308
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
2 3 5
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BG(2), IDF(5), PP(3)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Bursa bursa-pastoris (L.) Britt.
Bursa bursa-pastoris var. bifida CrTpin
Bursa gracilis Gren.
Capsella rubella Reut.
Thlaspi bursa-pastoris L.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References