University of Maryland Extension

Shepherd's purse

(More Lawn Weeds)  (Lawn Control Options)  

Shepherd's purse seedheads
Shepherd's Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris. Photo: U. Mass., Amherst

General description

A winter annual broadleaf weed that spreads by seed. It is a member of the mustard family. Has an upright growth pattern and forms a rosette of dandelion-like leaves at the base. The common name comes from the small, flat, triangular seedpods that have a seam along the middle. In un-mowed areas can grow to 1 ½ feet in height.


Spreads by seed; germination occurs in late summer, early autumn, or early spring.


Cultural control: Maintain healthy, dense turf that can compete and prevent weed establishment.
Mechanical control: Hand pulling or using an appropriate weeding tool are the primary means of mechanical weed control in lawns. This is a viable option at the beginning of an infestation and on young weeds. Hand pulling when the soil is moist makes the task easier. Weeds with tap roots like dandelions or have a basal rosette (leaves clustered close to the ground) like plantain are easier to pull than weeds such as Bermudagrass (wiregrass) or creeping Charlie (ground ivy) that spread with stolons or creeping stems that root along the ground.
General chemical control: Spot treat weeds with a liquid, selective, postemergent, broadleaf weed killer applied when weeds are actively growing. Look for a product with one or more of the following active ingredients:
2, 4-DMCPP (mecoprop), Dicamba* or Triclopyr. 

*Do not spray herbicides containing dicamba over the root zone of trees and shrubs. Roots can absorb the product possibly causing plant damage. Read the product label for precautions. 

Organic control

For a glossary of herbicide terms and additional information see: control options 


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