Draba nemorosa (Yellow Whitlow-grass)

Plant Info
Also known as: Woodland Draba, Yellow Whitlow-wort
Family:Brassicaceae (Mustard)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:part shade, sun; sandy or rocky soil; outcrops, dry fields, open woods, roadsides, waste areas
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:6 to 12 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 stalked flowers at the top of the stem. Flowers are tiny, less than 1/8 inch across, with 4 yellow petals notched at the tip. The green sepals behind the flower are sparsely hairy and more than half as long as the petals.

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

[photo of leaves] Basal leaves may or may not be in a rosette around the base. Leaves are up to 1 inch long and ½ inch wide, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem, densely hairy, typically with a few irregular teeth around the edges. Basal leaves are oval to somewhat spatula-shaped and stalked, stem leaves are egg-shaped to oblong-elliptic and stalkless. Stems are densely hairy in the lower plant, smooth in the upper plant, unbranched or branching near the base.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a flattened pod, oblong to elliptic, about 1/3 inch long. Fruits become widely spaced as the raceme lengthens, the flower stalk spreading and lengthening to an inch or more.


There is conflicting information on whether Yellow Whitelow-grass is native or not. About half my references say yes, indicating it is a circumpolar species, the rest say it was introduced from Europe or Asia. The plant list published by the Minnesota DNR says it is native, so we're going with that—when the DNR changes its designation we'll go along with that, too. Yellow Whitlow-grass is not likely to be confused with another species when flowering, though its tiny flowers and sparse appearance may make it go unnoticed. When it first starts blooming in early spring, it is only a few inches tall with the flowers looking like tiny yellow dots in the grass—easily overlooked.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Renville County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Renville, Chippewa and Stearns counties.


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

Posted by: Ellen - White Bear Lake
on: 2013-07-05 16:32:12

I found this plant volunteering in a deck box planted with with zinnia's. I did not recognize it but after reviewing your guide was able to identify. Thanks

Posted by: Brett - Elk River
on: 2017-04-09 20:07:36

Blooming today along the bike trail in a (small) restored prairie area.

Posted by: BernieAnn - Becker Oak Savanna, Sherburne County
on: 2020-04-11 10:58:30

Many of them found blooming yesterday, also pasque, in an area that had been recently cleared. Very much open to sun now.

Posted by: Dan Burns - Princeton
on: 2020-05-13 14:52:04

Observed in southern Mille Lacs County, May 2020. I see it's already noted as present in Sherburne County, just to the south, so, no surprise.

Posted by: Jessica Christensen - Polk county
on: 2020-05-19 09:01:51

Found in a newly established 2.5 acre CRP field. Dry and dandy in this location.

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