A model weed – shepherd’s purse Capsella bursa-pastoris

The common weed species owe their resilience and persistence to variation in life-history traits within the species. The genus Capsella provides a suitable model on which to base a range of studies in such intra-specific variation. Capsella bursa-pastoris  is currently the commonest broadleaf (dicot) weed of fields.

It generally causes little competitive reduction of the crop, provides food and shelter to beneficial invertebrates and has close synteny with the plant genetic model Arabidopsis. Variants are characterised by both physiological and molecular techniques. Studies range from broad scale analysis of the functional types that inhibit farmland, the effects of field management on functional types and the variation in important processes such as seed mucilage expansion and seed dormancy. The potential of Capsella as a medicinal and food plant is also being explored.

Previous funding: Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme 2011-16; PhD studentships; Scottish Government Sustainable Crop Systems 2006-11.

For more infomation contact Pete Iannetta



  • Deng W, Iannetta PPM, Hallett PD, Toorop PE, Squire GR, Jeng D-S. 2013. The rheological properties of the seed coat mucilage of Capsella bursa-pastoris L. Medik. (shepherd’s purse) Biorheology 50, 57-67, doi 10.3233/BIR-130627

  • Toorop, P.E., Cuerva R.C., Begg, G.S., Locardi, B., Squire, G.R. & Iannetta, P.P.M. 2012.  Co-adaptation of seed dormancy and flowering time in the arable weed Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse).  Annals of Botany 109, 481-489. 

  • Deng, W., Jeng, D.S., Toorop, P.E., Squire, G.R. & Iannetta, P.P.M. 2012.  A mathematical model of mucilage expansion in myxospermous seeds of Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse).  Annals of Botany 109, 419-427.

  • Iannetta, P.P.M. 2010. Capsella.In, Wild Crop Relatives: Genomic and Breeding Resources - Oilseeds. Kole C. (Ed.). Pp 37-62, Springer, Heidelberg, Dortrecht, London and New York. ISBN 978-3-642-14870-5

  • Debeljak, M., Squire, G.R., Demšar, D., Young, M.W., Džeroski, S. 2008. Relations between the oilseed rape volunteer seedbank, and soil factors, weed functional groups and geographical location in the UK.  Ecological Modelling 212, 138-146.

  • Karley, A.J., Hawes, C., Iannetta, P.P.M., Squire, G.R. 2008.  Intraspecific variation in Capsella bursa-pastoris in plant quality traits for insect herbivores.  Weed Research 48, 147-156.

  • Broadley, M.R., White, P.J., Hammond, J.P., Graham, N.S., Bowen, H.C., Emmerson, Z.F., Fray, R.G., Iannetta, P.P.M., McNicol, J.W., May, S.T. 2008. Evidence of neutral transcriptome evolution in plants. New Phytologist 180, 587-593. See also: Chin, G., Yeston, J. Eds. (2008) Evolution: Neutral Plantings. In, Editors Choice. Science 322, (5898; Oct).

  • Iannetta, P.P.M., Begg, G.S., Hawes, C., Young, M.W., Russell, J.R. and Squire, G.R. 2007.  Variation in Capsella (shepherd's purse): an example of intraspecific functional diversity.  Physiologia Plantarum 129, 542-554.