Draba brachycarpa Nutt. ex Torr. & A. Gray

Whitlow Grass


CC = 0
CW = 5
MOC = 72

© SRTurner

Family - Brassicaceae

Habit - Annual taprooted forb.

Draba_brachycarpa_scale.jpg Entire plant.

© SRTurner

Stems - Erect, to 20 cm, single or multiple from the base, unbranched below the inflorescence, purplish in strong sun, hairy.

Draba_brachycarpa_stem.jpg Stem.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Basal and alternate, simple, entire, 0.3-2.0 cm long, sessile or the basal leaves sometimes short-petiolate, linear to obovate, often with 2 small teeth, densely pubescent with forked hairs on both surfaces. Stem leaves relatively evenly distributed along stem.

Draba_brachycarpa_leaves.jpg Stem and leaves.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Few-branched panicles or less commonly racemes, elongating in fruit. Pedicels to 5 mm long in flower. Pedicels and axis densely pubescent.

Draba_brachycarpa_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Sepals 4, 0.5-2.0 mm long, oblong-ovate, round at the apex. Petals 4, 2-3 mm long (sometimes absent), erect to spreading, distinct, white, short-clawed, glabrous. Limb obovate, entire, rounded at apex. Stamens 6, erect. Ovary glabrous, 1 mm long, slightly compressed, ovoid. Styles absent or to 0.1 mm long.

Draba_brachycarpa_calyx.jpg Calyces.

© DETenaglia

Draba_brachycarpa_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Draba_brachycarpa_corollas.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Silicles 2.5-4.5 mm long, narrowly elliptic to lanceolate or narrowly oblong in outline, glabrous. Seeds 8-15 per fruit.

Draba_brachycarpa_fruits.jpg Fruiting plant.

© SRTurner

Draba_brachycarpa_vsverna.jpg D. brachycarpa and D. verna may sometimes be found growing together. This photo shows the difference in the infructescences: those of D. verna are much more open.

© SRTurner

Flowering - February - April.

Habitat - Forests, glades, prairies, streambanks, fields, pastures, railroads, roadsides, frequently on acidic substrates.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Other species of Draba, especially D. verna, D. reptans, D. aprica; also Holosteum umbellatum.

Other info. - This tiny native species is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring but is often overlooked because of its small size. The plant has a short flowering period and is most commonly encountered in fruit. It is found throughout Missouri, less commonly in the northern and northwestern regions of the state, and across the southeastern quadrant of the continental U.S. It is relatively easy to identify with some attention to detail. The four white petals are not cleft; the leaves bear forked hairs and are evenly distributed along the stems, and the fruits are glabrous.

The species name brachycarpa means "bearing short fruits." The moniker "whitlow grass" originated from an old belief that the plant could cure whitlow, which was an inflammation of horses' hooves. At one time, D. brachycarpa was the most common Draba in Missouri; however, recent observations suggest that D. verna may be overtaking it, at least in some areas.

Photographs taken at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Boone County, MO., 3-14-03, and off Lee Rd 10, Lee County, AL., 2-16-06 (DETenaglia); also at Little Lost Creek Conservation Area, Warren County, MO, 4-25-2014 and 3-18-2017, Kirkwood Park, St. Louis County, MO, 4-2-2019, Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 4-3-2019, and Amidon Conservation Area, Madison County, MO, 3-26-2020 (SRTurner).