Lepidium virginicum

Virginia Pepperweed

Botanical description: Poor-man’s pepper or Virginia pepperweed, as it is known colloquially, is a short biennial that colonizes bare, sandy soil in sunny spots like tree pits, along roadsides and in vacant lots. Lepidium is native to the Eastern U.S. It develops a taproot which helps it sustain drought conditions and poor soils. The plant remains relatively inconspicuous until the emergence of its spring flowers. Small, dense spikes of white-green raceme flowers emerge as beautiful bottle-brushy specimens through the dense growth of the highly branched and hairy stemmed plant. The small flowers continue to bloom at the end of the spike through August, as they develop small, flattened seed pods lower on the stalk. Traditionally used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes like treating poison ivy rash, scurvy and croup, the species is now known for its edible, seeds and foliage. Young leaves rich in vitamin C can be consumed raw or cooked and have a spicy, cress-like flavor. The seed pods are used in lieu of pepper to flavor soup and stews. The leaves can be added to salads or used to garnish. Seeds are favored by many kinds of wildlife including birds that are partly responsible for the plants wide dispersal.



Place of Origin

Eastern North America