Biology: botany: plant ID from field guide: shepherd’s purse

Self-tutoring about plant identification: the tutor mentions shepherd’s purse.

Reading the field guide lately, I noticed shepherd’s purse in there. It looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure where I might have seen it.

In my experience, there are two ways to make a new ID. One is by accident: just walking somewhere, you might notice a plant with distinct characteristics easy to remember. You observe as much as you can, then later find that plant in the guide. Most identifications I’ve made happened like so.

Otherwise, you might start from the guide: noticing an interesting plant therein, you might resolve to find it. You read its ecology, then visit corresponding sites, combing them for that plant. Eventually you find it, knowing already what it is because it’s what you came for. Great identifications can happen that way.

I wanted to find shepherd’s purse, but life is busy lately, with end-of-school concerns, etc.

In an odd twist, my older son and I walked home from the gym on Saturday, which we almost never do. (My wife dropped us off but needed the car.) We were walking and talking when I noticed plants growing up from seams in the sidewalk. Unmistakably, they were shepherd’s purse!

Shepherd’s purse is tough plant, often around the height of a ruler, with a thin erect stem, that’s easy to miss. Its flowers are very small and white. Its peculiar feature is its fruits, which are triangular discs with a definite seam lengthwise through the middle.


Pojar, Jim and Andy MacKinnon. Plants of Coastal British Columbia. Vancouver: BC Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Publishing, 1994.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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