Plant with fruit

Leaves and stem hairy

Leaves have prominent mid vein

Heart shaped fruit green when immature

Close up of tiny flowers

Flowers and fruit together

When seed mature capsule opens and outer shell falls off

Seed still held after keels fallen off

Seedling with stem and buds forming

Scientific Name

Capsella bursa-pastoris  (L.) Medikus

Common Names

shepherd's purse





Distinguishing characteristics

Annual erect herb 8 - 40 cm high.

Leaves and lower stem hairy. Leaves at base are in a rosette, some simple leaves up stem. Leaves are lobed.

Flowers are tiny (2 - 3 mm across) and white, they open progressively at the tip of the stem and so fruit and flowers can be seen on a stem at the same time.

Fruit is heart-shaped with stem longer than the fruit. Fruit capsule changes from green to brown when ripe. When ripe the 2 outer keels fall off and seed can be seen in 2 rows holding onto the central part. Seeds are yellow/orange when ripe.

This is a common weed.


Other plants easily confused with this plant

Young Capsella bursa-pastoris (before it flowers and seeds) is easily confused with Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) and Hypochoeris radicata (flat weed). Dandelion has more divided leaves with the tips of the lobes pointing towards the base of the leaf. Flat weed emits a milky sap when broken. 

Sources & References

"Weeds - an illustrated botanical guide to weeds of Australia" by B. A. Auld and R. W. Medd.

"Flora of New South Wales" editor Gwen J. Harden, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney.


Prepared by Justin KY Chu, July 2005

Checked by Dr Peter Michael, July 2005