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Book cover - Common Weeds of New ZealandAn Illustrated Guide to
Common Weeds
of New Zealand


Capsella bursa-pastoris
Shepherd's purse


Reproduced from
Common Weeds of New Zealand
by Ian Popay, Paul Champion & Trevor James
ISBN 0 473 09760 5
by kind permission of the
New Zealand Plant Protection Society

Publication or other use of images or descriptive text on these pages is unauthorised unless written permission is obtained from the authors and publisher.
Appropriate acknowledgement of the publication Common Weeds of New Zealand must always be given.

Available from Nationwide Book Distributors

Capsella bursa-pastoris - shepherd's purse

Short-lived annual forming a flat rosette with very variable, lobed leaves. The flowering stem grows up to 30 cm tall from the rosette, and has small, white flowers and the very characteristic heart- or 'purse'-shaped seed capsules.

  • Flowers White, 2.5-3 mm in diameter, with four small, white, undivided petals, and four green sepals half the length of the petals. Flowers on slender, spreading stalks at the top of the flower stem. Flowers Sep-Jan.
  • Fruit Distinctive heart-shaped capsules, 6-9 mm long, greenish-brown, on long stalks. Capsules split when ripe into two valves releasing many tiny pale brown seeds.
  • Leaves Basal rosette leaves deeply lobed to entire, 5-20 cm long, narrowed towards the stalk. The arrow-shaped and toothed stem leaves have ear-like projections clasping the stem. The leaves, even on small seedlings, have scattered, star-shaped hairs, visible with a hand lens.
  • Stems Erect, thin, branched, 15-30 cm tall.
  • Roots Deep tap-root.


Gardens, footpaths, cultivated land and bare ground.


Common throughout NZ and the offshore islands. Originally from Europe.


Very common in cultivated soil everywhere in NZ, more common in winter, but can germinate and grow at any time of the year if moisture is adequate. The plants are commonly infected with a white rust fungus. Shepherd's purse is apparently renowned among herbalists for its ability to check bleeding.

Derivation of botanical name

Capsella (Lat.) = little sachet; bursa-pastoris (Lat.) = shepherd's purse, referring to the distinctive seed pods.


Web-notes: Weed Links

On this site

Reproduced from Common Weeds of New Zealand:

External Links

WeedbustersWeedbusters New Zealand
Weedbusters is a weeds awareness and education programme that aims to protect New Zealand's environment from the increasing weed problem.
A free tool to assist farmers and agricultural professionals in decision-making regarding weed and pest identification, biology, impact and management.
Weed keyNew Zealand Weeds Key
An interactive identification key to the weeds of New Zealand. Developed at Landcare Research.

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network naturalised plants
Search for information on more than 2500 naturalised and weedy plants.
NZ Plant Protection SocietyNew Zealand Plant Protection Society
Their main objective: "To pool and exchange information on the biology of weeds, invertebrate and vertebrate pests, pathogens and beneficial organisms and methods for modifying their effects."
Massey UniversityMassey University Weeds Database
A site providing information about New Zealand weeds and weed control. It has a series of pages showing pictures of New Zealand weeds, notes on identification and control. It also provides information on a university paper entitled Controlling Weeds.

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Last updated: March 1, 2021