Pretty Pepperweed

Virginia pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum) was lush and lovely at the Coastal Oaks Preserve when we visited on 2/26/2022. Native from southern Canada through most of the U.S. to central America, this wildflower can be weedy elsewhere and in its native range.

Sunny disturbed areas including roadsides and old fields are where Virginia pepperweed flourishes, as you can see above in an open spot at Coastal Oaks Preserve. When less sun is available, Virginia pepperweed is far less lush as at Captain Forster Preserve …

Virginia pepper weed is an annual or biennial. When biennial, it begins as a basal rosette. Older leaves are lobed and toothed. Newer leaves are linear and have smooth margins.

Slender stalks (racemes) of tiny 4-petaled white flowers attract a variety of insects including bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies, even though this plant is wind-pollinated. In Florida it is a larval host plant for the great southern white butterfly (Ascia monuste) and the checkered white butterfly (Pontia protodice).

Fruits are borne horizontally on the flowering stalks. The flat seed pods have an notch at the top, a character that can be used to differentiate Virginia peppergrass from other similar members of the genus Lepidium

The tiny seeds have a peppery taste and can be used as pepper substitute, which is why some folks call this plant poorman’s pepper. Other common names include Virginia peppercress, least pepperwort, and just plain pepper grass. Common names can be confusing: This plant is not a grass but is a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae.

All parts of the plants are edible, and the greens can be added to salads. They are a good source of vitamins A and D.

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