Wild Peppergrass

Wild_Peppergrass_jpgThe Brassicaceae family commonly known as the Mustard or Crucifer family consists of 390 genera and 3,000 species of herbs and shrubs.  The flowers’ four petals are in the shape of a cross (Latin crucifer means “cross-bearing”).  The Brassicaceae family includes many economically important plants including the vegetables cabbage, kale, cauliflower, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, cress, turnip, radish, kohlrabi and rutabaga.  The condiment mustard is the ground seed of Bassica or Sinapis species.  An ancestral cabbage was cultivated about 8,000 years ago in coastal areas of northern Europe.  Cruciferous oil seeds, from species ofBassica, rank fifth in the 1990s in economic importance after soybeans, cotton seed, ground nut and sunflower seed.  Some Mustard plants are called Rocket, which is derived from eruca, Latin for “cabbage”. Virginia Peppergrass was used by the Menominee Native Americans of eastern North America as a lotion, prepared from bruised fresh leaves, to treat poison ivy.  The plant contains high levels of vitamin C and is used to treat vitamin C deficiency and generally as a detoxifying agent.  The herb is also diuretic and the root is taken to treat excess mucus within the respiratory tract. The pungent young leaves of Virginia Peppergrass can be eaten raw in a salad as a cooked green and the seedpods add a peppery flavor to hot soups and stews.



Lepidium virginicum






Annual or biennial


4 to 20 inches


July to November


Newfoundland to Florida ~ Statewide in New Jersey, weed in many dry areas


April to November


Leaves slender, lance shaped, sharply toothed, upper leaves smaller than basal leaves ~ Flowers small, white ~ Seedpods flat, circular or nearly so, slightly notched ~ Seeds 1 in each pod, peppery flavor