Shepherds Purse

March 10th, 2012

Latin:  Capsella bursa pastoris

Irish:  Lus an sparáin


This is a another member of the Cruciferous family that, at Castlewarden, is generally abundant in waste areas and can be found all-year round growing on pathways and at the base of the walls around the car park.  It can sometimes be observed growing in disturbed ground at the base of recently planted trees.

It is a small plant growing not much more than 30cm high and with very small (2mm), white, 4-petalled flowers. It is an annual, growing each year from seeds that are produced in fruits that are flattened and heart-shaped.  It’s common name derives from the shape and appearance of these fruits.

Shepherd’s Purse is little used in herbalism, though it was a commonly used domestic remedy, being especially efficacious in the treatment of both internal and external bleeding and diarrhoea. Clinical trials on the effectiveness of this plant as a wound herb have been inconclusive. It appears that either it varies considerably in its effectiveness from batch to batch or, perhaps, it is the white fungus that is often found on the plant that contains the medically active properties.

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