Lepidium virginicum L.
Peppergrass, a member of the mustard family, is named for its pepper-like flavor. It is native to the eastern United States, but widely distributed elsewhere. It has been used as a flavoring agent for thousands of years. It is found on roadsides, in fields, waste areas, distrubed sites, prairies, and pastures.
Plants: Plants start life as a low-growing rosette. (At least that’s what I read—they don’t attract much notice and I couldn’t find photos of them.) Later, stems, sometimes branched, reach 9-18" (22-45 cm) in height.
Leaves: The basal rosette leaves are spatula-shaped, sometimes toothed or lobed, 1-4" (2.5-10 cm) × ¼-1" (6.3-25 mm). Stem leaves are up to 3½" (8.9 cm) × ¾" (1.9 cm), more linear, less often toothed, and sessile (connected directly to the stem).
Flowers: Flowers form cylindrical racemes 2-4" (5-10 cm) long, with tiny white flowers. Each flower is less than ⅛" (3.2 mm) around, has four white petals and four green sepals.
Fruits: Flowers are replaced by seedpods, working up from the bottom. Each seedpod somewhat resembles a little spoon: it is flat, oval, with a central dividing partition and a small notch at the end, on a petiole about ¼" (6.3 mm) long. They are green, turning to brown. Sometimes the entire dried seed head breaks off and is carried elsewhere by the wind.
Edibility: Young leaves, which contain protein, iron, and vitamins A and C, can be sautéed or used in salads. Seedpods can substitute for black pepper. Roots, washed, crushed and mixed with vinegar, produce a horseradish substitute.
Medical: Preparations made from the roots have historically been used for both the treatment of diarrhea and constipation. Think about it! There are no substantiated medical uses of this species.
Lepidium virginicum on illinoiswildflowers.info
Lepidium virginicum at Minnesota Wildflowers
Lepidium virginicum at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Lepidium virginicum on www.ediblewildfood.com
Lepidium virginicum from the Jepson Manual
Multiple Authors, PDR for Herbal Medicines, Thomson Healthcare Inc., 2007, p. 168
Lepidium virginicum description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.