Lepidium virginicum

Brassicaceae

Peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum) is a native annual herbaceous species in the Brassicaceae. Other common names include poor man’s pepper, chicken pepper, least pepperwort or Virginia pepperweed. The plants have a mustard odor to their stems and leaves when crushed and often have basal rosettes of leaves. The leaves are simple but usually much dissected, the stem leaves are alternate and reduced upward. The flowers are in terminal racemes. The perfect flowers have four sepals, four small, white petals, and six (four long and two short), four, or two stamens. The ovary is superior, and the fruit is a silicle. The silicle is obovoid to nearly orbicular and notched at the apex. It is often found in roadside ditches, fallow fields, vacant lots, and other disturbed areas in winter to early spring throughout the state. The whole plant is edible, the roots, the leaves, and especially the fruits. Root can be used like radish or also boiled and the leaves as a salad or potherb. Fruits with a mild horseradish taste can be added to a salad or my favorite to bread which gives the bread a tangy taste (see pictures). We will make bread flavored with these seeds (fruits) in the edible plant classes this spring. See pictures of Lepidium bread making from last spring. Caterpillars of four butterflies (Cabbage White, Checkered White, Falcate Orangetip, & Great Southern White) are reported to eat peppergrass plus two moths (Diamondback Moth & Evergreen Bagworm Moth. I have brought seeds to Allen Acres and now get several plants with some in flower right now. You should find plenty of this right now especially in the southern parts of our states except Michigan, sorry Charles.