Virginia Pepperweed Identification – Lepidium virginicum

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This post is part of our “100 Plants and Mushrooms” series. Here, you’ll see the plant’s main parts – its leaves, flowers, fruits, and more – all with key identification features.

Virginia Pepperweed, known scientifically as Lepidium virginicum. This plant belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which is more commonly known as the mustard family. If you’ve ever seen mustard flowers, you’ve seen a relative of this plant.

Other than Virginia Pepperweed, this plant goes by several other names. Some of these include Poor-man’s Pepperweed, Poorman’s Pepperwort, Common Peppergrass, and Virginia Peppercress. So, if you come across any of these names, just know they’re all pointing to the same plant.

Virginia Pepperweed: Key Parts in Photos

Where to find it

If you’re on the hunt for this plant, you’d likely find it in the sunlight or partly shaded areas. It’s not too picky about where it grows, as long as the soil is average to dry. Some of its favorite places include roadsides, fields, and spots where the soil’s been disturbed. It can even be found along the edges of woods. Typically, this plant grows between 4 to 20 inches tall.

How to identify Virginia Pepperweed

The leaves are quite versatile. Some grow right from the base of the plant in a circle, while others are found along the stem. The ones at the base are longer and can be simple or divided into parts. These tend to disappear as the plant matures. On the other hand, stem leaves have edges that might be toothed or have lobes, and they’re usually 1 to 4 inches long. As you go higher up the plant, these leaves get more straight-edged and attach directly to the stem without any stalk. Both the leaves and the stems of this plant have tiny hairs.

The Virginia Pepperweed blooms in a way that’s hard to miss. You’ll notice long clusters of flowers sitting high on the plant. These clusters also pop out from where leaves meet stems. At the top of each cluster, you’ll find a tightly-packed round group of open flowers, with fruit forming below them. Take a closer look at these flowers. They’re tiny. You’ll see four white petals that look like paddles, surrounding four greenish sepals. Sometimes, however, the petals might be missing. In the middle, there are two yellow stamens and a short white style.

Virginia Pepperweed’s fruits are flat, roundish pods, usually a bit wider in the middle. Once mature, they turn into a brown, paper-like shell that splits open. Inside each half of this pod is a single seed.

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