Thlaspi arvense L.
Other names: Stinkweed
Plant height: 10-50 cm tall.
simple to freely branched, leafy, hairless.
Leaves: mostly alternate, oblanceolate, 2-6 cm long,
the lower strongly wavy-margined to almost lobed, with
larger end lobe, narrowed to a short stalk. Leaves farther
up becoming stalkless, with ear-shaped lobes at base.
Basal leaves few, withering by flowering time.
Flowers: white, in open clusters on branches, with
4 petals 3-4 mm long and sepals 1.5-2.2 mm long.
Flowering time: May-August.
Fruits: pods strongly flattened, oval or heart-shaped,
shallowly notched, 10-17 mm long, with winged edge all
around, the notch 1.5-2.5 mm deep. Stalks slender,
spreading to upcurved, 7-15 mm long. Style almost
lacking, 0.1-0.2 mm long. Seeds about 2 mm long, not
edged, wrinkled lengthwise.
Common weed on disturbed ground in all parts of MT.
Introduced from Europe, now spread across N. America.
Edible, Toxic and Medicinal.
(click on image for full size)
(click on images for full size)
Young leaves of field pennycress were used for food by the Cherokee Indians. Even
the young leaves have a somewhat bitter flavor and aroma, and has been added in small quantities to salads
and other foods. However, this plant is not recommended to use for food because its toxic properties,
The plant contains sufficient quantities of glucosinolates to be toxic. During dry periods, cattle in
western Canada have ingested hay containing high quantities of stinkweed, or field pennycress. Poisoning,
death and abortion occurred. Tests of field pennycress showed that the allylthiocyanate (a glucosinolate)
content is sufficient to cause sickness and death in cattle. Fatalities occurred at about 65 mg/kg of
body weight. The amount of this chemical varies with the stage of maturity of the plant, the highest amount
is in the seeds. Cattle that ingested hay containing between 25-100% field pennycress were colicky and
some abortions occurred. Ensiling hay containing field pennycress apparently prevented liberation of allylthiocyanate.
The entire plant is anti-inflammatory and acts as a blood tonic and blood purifier. It has agents that
induces sweating, agents that induces the removal (coughing up) of mucous secretions from the lungs. It
is fever-reducing and promotes the well-being of the liver and increases the secretion of bile. The seed
is a tonic. Both the seed and the young shoots are said to be good for the eyes. The seeds are used in
Tibetan medicine and are considered to have an acrid taste and a cooling potency. They are anti-inflammatory
and fever-reducing, and are used in the treatment of pus in the lungs, renal inflammation, appendicitis,
seminal and vaginal discharges. Field pennycress was used medicinally by the Iroquois Indians. They made
an infusion of the plant taken for sore throats. Pennycress
also has a broad antibacterial activity, effective against the growth of staphylococci and streptococci.
Seed of field pennycress might be useful for making biodiesel (it is 36 to 40 percent oil by weight) and
a nature-based weed killer. The seed oil can be used for lighting.
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