Field Cress (Pepper Grass; Pepperweed)

Lepidium campestre
Family: 
Brassicaceae (mustards)
Description: 

Annual with densely hairy stems, much branched toward top. Flowers typical of the mustard family, with 4 small, white petals; arising from the many upper branches. Blooms April–June. Basal leaves dandelion-like with rounded tops, short; stem leaves alternate, ascending, about 1½ inches long, entire or crenate (shallowly toothed), clasping the stem, and having 2 pointed "ears" (auricles). Seedpods nearly round, fairly large (technically called silicles), with 2 seeds each; the fruits are ornamental due to their quantity. Pepper grass in fruit looks like a candelabra. The plant looks grayish due to its fine hairs.

Size: 
Height: usually 10–18 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
A native of Europe and Asia that is widely naturalized on our continent. Occurs in fields, pastures, waste places, roadsides, railroads, and other disturbed places.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide.
Human connections: 
The seeds of various types of field cresses (genus Lepidium) have been used as a flavoring for meat, salads, and soups. Seed-eating pet birds such as canaries also relish the seeds. Other historic uses include various medicinal applications, with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Ecosystem connections: 
Several types of wild birds eat the seeds, and insects visit the flowers. Small, annual plants are important colonizers of disturbed ground, binding the soil with their roots and breaking the force of raindrops with their leaves, preventing erosion. They prepare the soil for other plants.
Shortened URL
http://mdc.mo.gov/node/17508