First Again

Each year we always look forward to seeing our “first” wildflower of the season. Depending on where and when we are out hiking, different plants are sighted first, however, spring whitlow grass (Draba verna) is often the “winner”. This year we saw spring whitlow grass for the first time along the Pronghorn Trail in Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Modoc County CA) on February 20th. The plants were very small, but there they were.

This member of the Mustard Family (Brassiciceae), although tiny, often grows so thick that it looks like a carpet of snow. Spring whitlow grass is native to Eurasia and North Africa and has established itself through much of the United States and Canada, except in a swath running north/south through the center of the continent. It is found in open to disturbed sites.

Spring whitlow grass has a basal rosette of green to reddish leaves and a leafless flower stalk. The white flowers have four greenish sepals, four deeply divided petals, six stamens and a superior ovary. The petals are so deeply divided that it often appears as though the flower has eight petals.

Vernal whitlow grass, spring draba and vernal draba are only a few of the many other common names given to D verna. More information on this very early bloomer can be found in my previous post: Spring Whitlow Grass 04-20-2012.

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