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Friday, May 2, 2014

Flower Friday: Spice up your garden with peppergrass

Photo by Forest & Kim Starr
Peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum)

Peppergrass is a member of the mustard family and is edible to humans. The young leaves, which contain protein and vitamins A and C, can be added to salads or sauteed; the seed pods can be used as a substitute for black pepper. (Doubtful? Pop a few clean seeds in your mouth and you will know immediately why this Florida native is sometimes called poor man's pepper. Check out this article in bon app├ętit.) 
Peppergrass has branching stems that produce racemes of tiny white flowers. The flowers are hermaphroditic (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects. The leaves are toothed shaped. The seed pods can be found along the stems. 
Although peppergrass is rarely planted intentionally, it can show up just about anywhere. It is so prolific that it has earned the title of “weed”—but as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, a weed is simply a “plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered”! 

Family: Mustard (Brassicaceae) 
Hardiness: All zones Soil: Well drained sandy to rich soil  
Exposure: Any sunny spot 
Growth habit: Peppergrass is a small plant reaching to about 20 inches in height. It prefers dry conditions. 
Garden tips: If eating peppergrass doesn’t appeal to you, the dried seed stems can also be used in flower arrangements. They are showy, sturdy, and last for a long time. Peppergrass is also a host plant for the checkered white butterfly (Pontia protodice). 

Click here to learn more about where peppergrass occurs naturally in Florida.

-- Dena Wild

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