Thursday, June 3, 2010

Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum)

Lepidium virginicum is known by the common names, Virginia Pepperweed, Poor Man's Pepper, or Peppergrass. It’s another one of those plants with small, white flower heads like Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta). It’s easy to miss. At home, I found a small patch of Virginia Pepperweed at the low point along the drive from the road to the house. Someone who shall remain nameless drove the tractor back and forth over this area when reworking the drive last winter. I was afraid that these plants would not grow this year. Luckily about five or six plants survived.

This plant is listed an annual or biannual. It’s not clear that the plants that grew this year are in the second year of a two-year growth cycle. Last year these plants only grew a single spike. This year, a number of the plants branched. They developed seed pods in both years.

The plants – with the little white flower heads. It’s easy to see how they would be missed.

A stalk showing the leaf shape and arrangement.

A closer view of the flower heads.

Close-ups of a flower

The seed pods area developing rapidly as the buds continue to bloom

A close-up of the seed pods

This is the only Virginia Pepperweed plant I found at Fort Yargo State Park – beside the trail along segment 2. It is impressive in the extent of branching. The plants at home only developed four to five branches on a single stem.

The seeds. They are 1-2 mm in length.

Lepidium virginicum
(Virginia Pepperweed) is native to North America. It grows in all states in the United States and in all Canadian provinces except Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
Interestingly Lepidium virginicum belongs to the same family, Brassicaceae, as Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress). Click on an image to view a larger image

Distribution Map:

- United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database: Lepidium virginicum (Virginia Pepperweed)

University of North Carolina Herbarium: Lepidium virginicum

Identification resources:

Southeastern Flora: Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum)

- Native & Naturalized Plants of the Carolinas and Gerogia: Lepidium virginicum

- Wikipedia: Lepidium virginicum

Related posts:

- 2010: Year Of The Wildflower

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