Each spring Leonard and I search for the first wildflower of the year. Usually a violet or a buttercup wins the prize. This year spring whitlow grass (Draba verna) along the shore of Baum Lake (Shasta County CA) was our first sighting.
Spring whitlow grass, with its four sepals, four petals and six stamens, is not a grass, but rather is a member of the mustard family. The leaves form a basal rosette. The white petals are deeply lobed. The fruit, also appearing in early spring, is a silicle (pod-like, flat, oval).
An annual, introduced plant arising from a taproot, spring whitlow grass can be found in open, dry, sunny sites. However, to see this harbinger of spring one must look closely as spring whitlow grass only grows from one to three inches in height.
More information on spring whitlow grass can be found in an earlier post – “Spring Whitlow Grass from 04-20-12.