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Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris L.)

Crop Impacts: Grain and vegetable fields

Shepherd’s Purse 1

About Shepherd’s Purse:

This is one of the earliest weeds to popup in the spring. The Shepherd’s Purse weed is a winter annual or annual broad-leafed plant, which reproduces by the production and release of their seeds. It is a short-lived and quick growing weed that can produce hundreds of seeds. From the plants germination until the seeds settle takes about 3 to 4 weeks. This plant has little-to-no effect on your crop field’s quality.

Family: Mustard Family (Brassicaceae)

Shepherd’s Purse 2 Shepherd’s Purse 3

Shepherd’s Purse Scouting and Prevention:

This weed has a straight stem that stands about 10 to 60 cm tall. The leaves that hold onto the stem are slightly toothed, small, lobed, basal leaves that alternate from one another and grow to about 10 cm long. The leaves at the base of the plant that lay on the ground are flatted, basal rosettes and deeply rooted. The Shepherd’s Purse produces small, white rounded clusters of flowers at the end of their stems. It’s most distinguished feature is its purse, or heart-shaped seedpods at the end of each branch. Both flowers and seedpods open up in early spring to late fall.

Common locations

  • - Grain fields
  • - Vegetable fields
  • - Vineyards
  • - Lawn`s
  • - Gardens
  • - Tolerates saline soil


The easiest way to deal with Shepherd’s Purse is to make sure there are high standards in your fields, such as:

  • - Making sure your variation of seeds are weed-free
  • - That you are cultivating and planting at optimal times
  • - Putting plant appropriate fertilizer on crops to promote fast and easy growth

Shepherd’s Purse Control:

Cultural Control

You are able to pull out the younger plants by hand or hoe. Be careful not to remove a lot of soil to avoid bringing up dormant seeds. If pulling out Shepherd’s Purse, make sure that afterwards you put down mulch approximately 3 inches deep throughout the whole garden. If you plant crops that have a high seeding rate, they will be able to successfully compete with Shepherd’s Purse.

Chemical Control

As for a chemical approach, applying spray to young weeds with contact weed killer such as weed B Gon in early spring before the plant has a chance to flower works well. For late fall application of herbicides onto you crops, MCPA or 2,4-D are the most consistent and economical way to control Shepherd’s Purse. The fall weather provides a favorable environment for herbicide translocation. However, this does not mean that it will completely stop more seedlings from growing in the spring. If you are interested in doing a weed burn down in spring before seeding, given the weeds are small, still growing, fall rosettes have yet to be bolted and there is good weather for uptake and translocation, than a burn down herbicide can be an effective chemical control method. You are able to plant herbicide resistant crops such as wheat if application is made early. If you are trying to deal with Shepherd’s Purse in Alberta or Saskatchewan, it is important to know that this weed is resistant to WSSA Group 2 herbicides.

Latin / Alternative Shepherd’s Purse names:

  • - Capsella bursa-pastoris L.
  • - Locowort
  • - Pickpocket
  • - St James Weed
  • - Shepherd's Heart
  • - Toywort

Additional Shepherds Purse Resources