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Lepidium virginicum

Lepidium virginicum L.

 

Peppergrass

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderBrassicalesMustard, cabbage, caper, papaya, nasturtiums, many others; most produce mustard oil
FamilyBrassicaceaeMustards, cabbages
GenusLepidiumFrom Greek lepidion, “little scale,” because the fruit pods resemble small balances
Speciesvirginicum“From Virginia”

About plant names...

Peppergrass, a member of the mustard family, is named for its pepper-like flavor. It is native to the eastern United States, but widely distributed elsewhere. It has been used as a flavoring agent for thousands of years. It is found on roadsides, in fields, waste areas, distrubed sites, prairies, and pastures.

Plants: Plants start life as a low-growing rosette. (At least that’s what I read—they don’t attract much notice and I couldn’t find photos of them.) Later, stems, sometimes branched, reach 9-18" (22-45 cm) in height.

Leaves: The basal rosette leaves are spatula-shaped, some­times toothed or lobed, 1-4" (2.5-10 cm) × ¼-1" (6.3-25 mm). Stem leaves are up to 3½" (8.9 cm) × ¾" (1.9 cm), more linear, less often toothed, and sessile (connected directly to the stem).

Flowers: Flowers form cylindrical racemes 2-4" (5-10 cm) long, with tiny white flowers. Each flower is less than ⅛" (3.2 mm) around, has four white petals and four green sepals.

Fruits: Flowers are replaced by seedpods, working up from the bottom. Each seedpod somewhat resembles a little spoon: it is flat, oval, with a central dividing partition and a small notch at the end, on a petiole about ¼" (6.3 mm) long. They are green, turning to brown. Sometimes the entire dried seed head breaks off and is carried elsewhere by the wind.

Edibility: Young leaves, which contain protein, iron, and vitamins A and C, can be sautéed or used in salads. Seedpods can substitute for black pepper. Roots, washed, crushed and mixed with vinegar, produce a horseradish substitute.

Medical: Preparations made from the roots have historically been used for both the treatment of diarrhea and consti­pation. Think about it! There are no substantiated medical uses of this species.

Online References:

Lepidium virginicum on illinoiswildflowers.info

Lepidium virginicum at Minnesota Wildflowers

Lepidium virginicum at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lepidium virginicum on www.ediblewildfood.com

Lepidium virginicum from the Jepson Manual

References:

Multiple Authors, PDR for Herbal Medicines, Thomson Healthcare Inc., 2007, p. 168

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

8/25/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, East Pepperell, MA
≈ 16 × 11" (40 × 27 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

7/9/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, MA
≈ 6 × 7" (15 × 18 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

9/10/2016 · Arlington St., Groton, MA

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

6/23/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Pepperell, MA
≈ 17 × 12" (44 × 29 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

7/11/2013 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, MA
≈ 12 × 19" (31 × 47 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

11/5/2009 · Pepperell, MA
≈ 2½ × 1½" (6.4 × 4.3 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

6/26/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Dunstable, MA
≈ 3½ × 5" (9.2 × 13 cm)

Lepidium virginicum description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 26 Jul 2019.

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Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

6/26/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Dunstable, MA
≈ 3½ × 5" (9.2 × 13 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

6/23/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Pepperell, MA
≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

7/9/2019 · By Jacquelyn Boyt

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

7/4/2013 · ME
≈ 6 × 5" (15 × 12 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

7/9/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton, MA
≈ 5 × 6" (13 × 16 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

11/5/2009 · Pepperell, MA
≈ 2½ × 1½" (6.3 × 4.2 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

7/28/2009 · Near Nashua River Boat Ramp, Groton, MA
≈ 7 × 4½" (18 × 12 cm) ID is uncertain

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

7/4/2013 · ME
≈ 5 × 5" (13 × 13 cm)

Lepidium virginicum (Peppergrass)

6/26/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Dunstable, MA
≈ 4½ × 6" (11 × 15 cm)

Range:

About this map...