Shepherd’s purse is an annual weed that can grow quickly and take over lawns and gardens.
It’s not a noxious weed or dangerous to have in your yard, but it is something that needs to be dealt with just like any other unwanted guest might need special attention, so it’s important to get rid of shepherd’s purse before it becomes too much of a problem.
Luckily there are many ways to manage this pesky plant so you don’t have to live with it for the rest of your life. Keep reading for tips on how to identify shepherd’s purse and what you need to do if you find this wild flower growing in your yard!
What Exactly Is Shepherd’s Purse?
Capsella bursa-pastoris, also known as Shepherd’s purse, is an annual weed that grows in lawns through the spring and summer. A plant in the mustard family, it is originally native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia, but has since been naturalized and is considered a common weed in almost every corner of the globe.
Shepherd’s Purse is the second most prolific wild plant in the entire world. It is found on every continent, but especially grows rampant in colder places such as the British Isles, China, and North America.
Shepherd’s purse gets its name from the resemblance of its fruit capsule to the staffs or bags used by shepherds centuries ago.
This weed is labelled by scientists as a proto-carnivore because it has been found that it attracts and kills nematodes with its seeds in order to more enrich the soil and help it grow stronger.
Where and How Does Shepherd’s Purse Grow?
Shepherd’s purse likes full sun and can grow up to 20 inches tall with ideal conditions. It grows in disturbed ground, as well as in meadows, on road sides, and in lawns and garden spaces.
It reproduces entirely by seed, and can produce thousands of seeds every year, which are easily spread by the wind, as well as transported easily on shoes, clothing, pets, etc.
Unlike the majority of flowering plants, Shepherd’s Purse flowers all year round; it also can store its seeds in the soil for a long time and has a short generation time, meaning one plant can reproduce into multiple generations of new weeds.
How To Identify Shepherd’s Purse
Shepherd’s purse is a weed that can be identified by it’s white flowers, heart shaped leaves and seed pods.
It produces a white flower with four petals, similar to Queen Anne’s Lace or wild carrot. These flowers are incredibly small – only .1 inches in diameter – but dozens of flowers can appear on a single stem or in a very small patch, so it looks like a solid field of white on the top of the weed.
The seed head of the shepherd’s purse looks like little purses filled with seeds, which is how the weed got its name. These weeds are about 8 inches tall when they bloom in early summer, but by late summer they can be up to 20 inches high.
Below the flowers, Shepherd’s purse has dark green heart-shaped leaves throughout its long stalks. It has a rosette of pointy leaves that form around the base of the stem.
The seed pods are slender inflated silicles about 2 centimeters long, with each containing many seeds inside which are easily spread around when they fall off the plant into your garden soil.
How to Kill Shepherd’s Purse In Your Yard
We’ve established the basic description of Shepherd’s Purse, including how it grows, where it grows, and what it commonly looks like. Now, let’s examine the different ways you can kill Shepherd’s Purse in your lawn.
There are multiple effective, proven options available to help protect your lawn from this weed. Read each carefully before choosing which method to use on your own property.
Chemical herbicide should be applied before the plants produce any seeds. Any weed killer with the active ingredient glyphosate should be effective to get rid of Shepherd’s Purse, such as this Compare-N-Save Concentrate herbicide.
Take care when using these non-selective herbicides within and around ornamental plants by wrapping any plants you want to keep in plastic film before spraying. Once the spray has dried on the weed foliage, covers may be removed.
If you take a hoe to Shepherd’s Purse soon after emerging, light hoeing of seedlings will remove the stems from their taproots and prevent any blooming and seed production. A long-handled hoe is ideal to swiftly weed a border or hedge plot, while a hand hoe is useful for eliminating weeds that are growing near or between cultivated plants in your garden.
Non-flowering weeds can be carefully composted, but any flowering plants should be thrown away so they don’t replant.
If you apply organic mulches, such as bark chips or opaque mulching films, to affected beds and boundaries at a depth of at least 8cm (3in), this will hinder development and could lead to the weeds dying out.
How to Prevent Shepherd’s Purse From Growing
If you can practice effective prevention techniques, you will not need to work tirelessly to eliminate this weed from your lawn or garden in the first place. After all, prevention is the best cure.
Keep an eye out for new sprouts this spring by pulling them before they become too big and prevent from growing into invasive weeds if possible.
Another way to prevent the plant from growing again is by making sure your lawn has enough water during dry spells or when rainfall isn’t sufficient for nourishing the grass. Also be sure to mow your lawn routinely and aerate it as well. This will keep your lawn full of thick and healthy grass that you want to grow, and rid it of the weeds you don’t want.
Shepherd’s purse is a weed that has been around since the days of ancient Rome. It can be identified by its heart shaped leaves and white flowers, but how to get rid of it once you’ve found it? If you want to deal with it, there are both chemical and organic ways; with the right approach, you should have it cleared up in no time.
Chemical means are quick and effective but may not be best for your yard because they could be harsh on other plants as well as areas where children or pets might go near them. Organic means take longer but will encourage healthy soil growth while getting rid of unnecessary weeds like shepherd’s purse without harming other vegetation nearby. Whichever way you choose, we wish you the best of luck with your garden!