Freitag, 6. Dezember 2013

Plant of the Day (December 6th, 2013) - Lepidium latifolium L.

Pfefferkraut” (what is the literally translation of “Pepperwort”). However, there is also another plant, Satureja hortensis from the Lamiaceae, which is also known as “Pfefferkraut”. So, it's always an advantage, if you know the Latin name.

1) Description

Our species is a perennial plant, what is remarkable, because the most species from the genus Lepidium are annual or biennial plants. L. latifolium is also one of the largest plants from the Genus, because it can reach heights between 50 and 130 centimeter. It has also a widely branched rhizome. As a result, our “Pepperwort” grows in dense stocks as shrub.

L. latifolium  - habitus; on the right side,
you can also see a basal leaf with its petiole

The basal leaves are about 25 centimeters long. They are lanceolate to egg-shaped and have a long petiole. In contrast to this the upper leaves and stalks have no petiole, but sit directly on the stem. They are also smaller (between 5 and 10 centimeters in length) and more lanceolate as egg-shaped.

 L. latifolium - habitus; here, you can see flowers an 
the leaves
Another difference to other species from the Genus Lepidium are the inflorescences. While the inflorescences of the most species from this genus are dense racemes, the inflorescence of L. latifolium is a loose, width pancicle, which consists of many, small flowers. Each flower has white to cream-white petals, which are only about 2,5 millimeters long. The pods (Schote) are elliptical to round and about 2 millimeters in diameter.

L. latifolium - leaves (basal and upper leaves)

Like the most Lepidium species, L. latifolium can be used as vegetable and spice. The leaves have a intense, sharp taste, which is even stronger than the taste of the more common “garden cress” (L. sativum).

2) Distribution

L. sativum is native to Eurasia but can also be found in North America as a neophyte. In this regions, the plant is even an invasive species, which threatens Biotopes like salt marches and flood plains by its rapid spreading.
flood plains like this are a good habitus for L. latifolium
beyond the shores.

It's a salt plant, which grows on salty places on sand and clay. So, it can normally been found along the shores at beaches and dunes. In the Inland, it's rare but can also be found at flood plains or other salty places like some ruderal wastelands. We found this exemplar at the shores of the river Rhine in Duisburg-Homberg during a field trip in August 2013.

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