Sunday, March 15, 2015

Is it a case of OCD?

I'm not sure what fascinates me so about Whitlow Grass, but I find myself wanting to know more about it, and every spring, when it's one of the first blooms I notice, I get the itch.  I posted a photo of this cute little flower a few days ago, and here's what I've learned since.
If this is Spring Whitlow Grass, Draba verna, it is not a native plant.  It was introduced from Europe.  Some field guides use the term "alien" for a case like this.  I don't call plants or people aliens.  If this happens to be Draba breweri, or Brewer's Draba, it's a native plant found in the northern Sierra and southern Cascades.  I believe it's D. verna, though.  In various books and on various websites, it's called Whitlow Grass, Spring Whitlow Grass, Spring Draba, Shadflower, and Nailwort. It's also known by a different scientific name, Erophila verna.  There is some debate among botanists about that.  Erophila means spring-loving.  In either case, it's a member of the Mustard Family, sometimes called the Cabbage Family.  Radishes and broccoli are in this family, too.  The family is known scientifically as Brassicaceae, but in older books you may find the older family name, Cruciferae.  It's a self-pollinating plant, and maybe that's why I never see any bugs on it.
Globally, there are several hundred species of Draba.  The precise number continues to change as more species are found, or as botanists keep changing their minds, and whether they are inclined to be "splitters" or "lumpers."  As you may have guessed, splitters tend to recognize more species than lumpers.  I'd say there are over a thousand specimens growing in my front lawn at this time, but if you walked by the house you'd never notice them.  They are very, very tiny.  The above photo represents an area about 1" wide by 1.5" tall. There, that's more than you wanted to know.

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