Brassicaceae-Fringepods & Peppergrass2017-08-17T14:23:09+00:00

 Brassicaceae: Mustard Family — Fringepods & Peppergrass

Members of the mustard family all have four petals, usually in a cruciform shape (hence Cruciferae; the old name for the family).  With some groups (particularly the mustards themselves (Brassica, Hirschfeldia, Sisymbrium, Caulanthus and Turritis)), it is necessary to pay close attention to the fruits.  Fruits in the Mustard family are of two kinds, siliques and silicles.  Siliques are typically at least 2 x as long as they are wide and silicles are not. All the plants on this page have more or less flattened silicles, of different shapes and degrees of hairiness, some notched at the tip, some not,

Hairy Fringepod – Thysanocarpus curvipes subsp. curvipes & elegans

Blooms:

Feb–June

Plant Height:

10–60 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Grassy or brushy slopes

Notes:

Fringepods are most easily recognized by their fruits, oval with more or less crenate (scalloped) margins, perforated or not.  Hairy Fringepod has hairy fruits with wings which may be perforated or just crenate.  It is also distinguished from Narrow-leaved Fringepod (Thysanocarpus laciniatus) by the clasping bases of its leaves. There are two very slightly different subspecies; subsp. elegans  which has fruits which are 6 mm long or more and consistently perforated wings and subsp. curvipes which has slightly smaller fruits, less than 6 mm long, with wings which may be perforated or just crenate.

Narrow-leaved Fringepod – Thysanocarpus laciniatus

Blooms:

Mar–May

Plant Height:

10–60 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open places

Notes:

Fringepods are most easily recognized by their fruits, oval with more or less crenate (scalloped) margins, perforated or not.  Narrow-leaved Fringepod has fruits that are smaller (3–5 mm), not hairy and are rarely perforated and its leaves do not have clasping bases and may be pinnately lobed. The glabrous fruits and non-clasping leaves make it easy to distinguish this species from Hairy Fringepod (Thysanocarpus curvipes).  The photo on the right shows the fruits of both Narrow-leaved and Hairy Fringepods to show the difference in size and hairiness.

Shepherd’s Purse – Capsella bursa-pastoris

Blooms:

Jan–Oct

Plant Height:

15–50 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

 

Origin:

Eurasia

Habitat:

Disturbed areas

Notes:

A very common weedy cress, distinguished by its heart shaped fruits.  When ripe, these split down the middle, releasing yellow seeds which are sometimes likened to the golden coins in the shepherd’s purse.

English Peppergrass – Lepidium campestre

Blooms:

May–July

Plant Height:

12–50 cm

Flower Size:

Small clusters

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Meadows & woodland

Notes:

The most distinctive feature of this peppergrass is the elongated inflorescence with its small, spoon-shaped flowers forking off the stem. Fruits are flat, oblong to ovate and notched at the tip. There is a basal rosette of leaves as well as oblong to lanceolate cauline leaves. The entire plant is covered in short hairs.

Lesser Swine Cress – Lepidium didymum

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

10–45 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Disturbed areas

Notes:

A common weed in disturbed places, more closely related to the peppergrasses than to the cresses, despite its common name. The leaves are finely dissected, the lobes entire or themselves lobed.  The fruits are the most distinctive feature, in pairs resembling a rather small pair of spectacles.

Shining Peppergrass – Lepidium nitidum

Blooms:

Feb–Mar

Plant Height:

10–35 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Open grassland and slopes

Notes:

The tiny white flowers are less distinctive than the flattened, shiny, oval fruits with a shallow notch at the tip and a conspicuous vertical seam down the middle. Fruits are green, maturing red. The pedicel itself is strongly flattened.

Upright Pepperweed / Wayside Peppergrass – Lepidium strictum

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

7–17 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Native

Habitat:

Generally in hard-packed soil

Notes:

A smaller, very leafy peppergrass with similar fruits to Shining Peppergrass (Lepidium nitidum) but smaller and with a more pronounced notch at the tip.  Leaves are pinnate with slender leaflets.

Spring / Vernal Whitlow-grass – Draba vena

Blooms:

Feb–May

Plant Height:

5–20 cm

Flower Size:

Very small

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Open or disturbed places

Notes:

At first sight similar to the peppergrasses, but can be distinguished first by its rosette of small hairy basal leaves and secondly by its fruit. These are silicles, variable in shape from elliptic or ovate to oblong or even linear, and lacking the notched tip characteristic of peppergrasses.  The four white petals are deeply cleft.