Virginia pepper grass

(Lepidium virginicum var. virginicum)

Conservation Status
Virginia pepper grass
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Virginia pepper grass is a 4 to 20 tall, erect, annual or biennial forb that rises on usually a single stem from a slender, branching taproot.

At first it forms a rosette about 6 in diameter of basal leaves. The basal leaves are usually once lobed with a large, rounded, terminal lobe. When the plant is a biennial it overwinters in this form. Basal leaves are usually wilted by flowering time.

The flowering stems are erect or ascending. They are occasionally branched at the base, often branched in the upper third. They are covered, especially near the top, with minute, curved, mostly ascending hairs.

Lower stem leaves are alternate, inversely egg-shaped or linear, 1 to 4 long, and 3 16 to wide. They are on short leaf stalks and are sometimes lobed. The leaf blades are tapered to almost heart-shaped at the base and taper to a point at the tip with straight sides along the tip. The upper and lower surfaces are usually hairless, sometimes sparsely hairy. The margins are sharply toothed.

Upper stem leaves are similar but smaller, linear, and stalkless but not clasping. The margins are usually untoothed.

The inflorescence is a dense, unbranched cluster (raceme) at the end of the stems and branches. The racemes are compact when in flower, but quickly elongate as the fruits develop, eventually becoming up to 4 long. Typically, a few flowers are in bloom crowded at the top of the raceme, with developing and developed fruits below.

The individual flowers less than wide. There are 4 green, linear to narrowly elliptic sepals, and 4 white petals. The petals are as long to twice as long as the sepals. There is no floral scent.

The fruit is a flattened, 1 16 to long, mostly circular, seed pod. It is widest at the middle. The tip is narrowly winged and has a broad, shallow notch. It is initially green, turning brownish when dry. It is on a stalk that is spreading or ascending.




4 to 20


Flower Color




Similar Species


Clasping pepper grass (Lepidium perfoliatum) upper stem leaves are broadly egg-shaped to circular and perfoliate or strongly clasping with auricles that surround the stem and overlap.

Field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense) fruits are much larger, 5 16 to ¾ long, and are broadly winged all around, not just at the tip.

Gardencress pepperweed (Lepidium sativum) fruits are on stalks that are closely ascending or almost erect. The fruits are larger, 3 16 to ¼ wide.

Prairie peppergrass (Lepidium densiflorum) is nearly indistinguishable when not in flower. The flowers either have no petals or have petals that are no longer than the sepals. The fruits are broadly inversely egg-shaped, widest above the middle.


Dry to moist. Prairies, bluff tops, fields, railroads, roadsides, disturbed sites. Full or partial sun.




May to July


Pests and Diseases




Defense Mechanisms


This and other mustards (family Brassicaceae) produce chemical compounds when cells are damaged that are toxic to most animals, fungi, and bacteria.




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Brassicales (mustards, capers, and allies)  


Brassicaceae (mustard)  
  Tribe Lepidieae  


Lepidium (peppergrass)  
  Species Lepidium virginicum (Virginia pepper grass)  

Subordinate Taxa






Lepidium virginicum var. typicum


Common Names


common peppergrass



Virginia pepper grass

Virginia pepper-weed

Virginia pepperweed













A small, ear-like projection at the base of a leaf or at the junction of a grass blade and stem.



Describing a leaf that wholly or partly surrounds the stem but does not fuse at the base.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



A leaf having margins that entirely surround the stem, giving the appearance that the stem is growing through the leaf.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.

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    Virginia pepper grass   Virginia pepper grass  
    Virginia pepper grass      



  Lepidium virginicum COMMON PEPPERCRESS
Frank Mayfield
  Lepidium virginicum COMMON PEPPERCRESS  



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Other Videos
  EatTheWeeds: Episode 06: Peppergrass, Lepidium Virginicum

Uploaded on Feb 11, 2008

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  Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium Virginicum) / Peppergrass - 2012-06-02

Published on Jun 5, 2012

Lepidium virginicum, also known as Virginia pepperweed or peppergrass, is an annual or biennial plant in the Brassicaceae or mustard family.


De Amerikaanse kruidkers (Lepidium virginicum) is een eenjarige plant, die behoort tot de kruisbloemenfamilie (Cruciferae of Brassicaceae).

  Pepperweed Lepidium Virginicum.avi
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Uploaded on Apr 20, 2011

Foraging foods plant identification




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