Draba verna (Spring Whitlow-grass)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Brassicaceae (Mustard)
Life cycle:annual
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil; lawns, fields, waste places, roadsides
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Elongating cluster of 4 to 20 stalked flowers at the tip of the stem, with a tight group at the tip of a few open flowers and fruit forming below. Flowers are about 1/8 inch across with 4 white petals that are yellow at the base, cleft half or more their length and may appear as 8 petals. In the center are 6 yellow stamens surrounding a stout, green style.

[photo of sepals] The 4 sepals surrounding a flower are oblong to egg-shaped, green to purplish, at least half as long as the petals, and sparsely hairy though may become smooth with age. Flower stalks are erect to ascending and hairless.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of basal rosette] Leaves are all basal, ¼ to about ¾ inch long, oblong to spatula-shaped, toothless or with 1 or 2 teeth per side, blunt to pointed at the tip, short-stalked to stalkless. Surfaces are dimpled with branching hairs. Stems are wiry, green to purplish, unbranched, single or multiple from the base, the lower stem sparsely covered in a mix of branched and unbranched hairs becoming hairless above.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a flattened, oblong-elliptic pod about 1/3 inch long and half or less as wide, held ascending to spreading on a straight to slightly curved stalk up to about ¾ inch long. Inside are up to 40 seeds.

[photo of seed] Seeds are about .5 mm long, oval, slightly flattened, golden brown with a finely textured surface.


Spring Whitlow-grass has only been recorded once in Minnesota, at the Indian Point campground in Duluth where it seems happy to persist at one particular campsite and apparently has not been seen in the others. However, this is a tiny plant that blooms very early in the season and is very difficult to spot once it's gone to seed so it is likely more widespread than reports indicate. As we've seen with some other weeds, they're prone to hitchhiking on car tires and make their way to other campsites, parks and nature centers, and on and on from there. Case in point, we also found it in the gravel driveways of an Iowa nature center and at campgrounds in Missouri.

It is most similar to the native Carolina Whitlow-grass (Draba reptans), which does not have elongating flowering stems so the fruit is arranged more like a candelabra at the top of the stem, its flower petals are not deeply cleft as Spring Whitlow-grass flowers are, and there are usually some leaves on the lower stem where Spring Whitlow-grass leaves are all in a basal rosette.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Iowa and Missouri. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in at Indian Point Campground in Duluth, St. Louis County, and in Iowa and Missouri.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jennifer Cummings - Park Point, Duluth
on: 2018-08-23 10:07:46

This plant has taken a liking to a roadside area of our property. Blooming still in August, however; everything blooms very late in this spot (tulips came in late June). i’d be happy to send photos. i’ve been trying to identify this as to leave it or take it out of my intended native garden and finally this is exactly the description.

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