Monday, April 25, 2011

Whitlow Grass

So very easy to overlook is the lovely little Whitlow Grass, Draba verna, already in flower and building seed pods.

From The Sylvan Year by Philip Gilbert Hamerton published in 1876:

The note of the following extract from 'The Flower and the Leaf' may, it is true, seem delicate and tender rather than passionate, yet its tenderness is passion in repose :

'When shoures sweet of raine descended soft,
Causing the grounde fele times and oft
Up for to give many an wholesome aire,
And every plaine was clothed faire

'With new grene, and maketh small floures
To springen here and there in field and mede,
So very good and wholesome be the shoures

That it renueth what was old and dede
In winter time; and out of every sede
Springeth the hearbe, so that every wight
Of this season waxeth glad and light.'

If from the 'small floures' of Chaucer we descend to particulars, and ask of what 'small floures' the verse at once reminds us, I think we can hardly fail to remember the common Draba, or Draba verna, which is both small and early, and as pretty in its elegant humility as many little plants that happen to be more popularly known. Tiny as it is, with stalks just strong enough to carry its little pods and flowers, and not burdened by any leaves, for they lie on the ground about its root, it still has an appreciable effect on the color of an April foreground, which it powders with white like a hailshower, and even at a distance it will make the green of a pasture grayer. The power of small plants in the coloring of landscape is often forced upon the attention of artists, and there are many remarkable examples of it in different parts of the world. The Draba does not strike the eye as it would if the flower were scarlet or bright blue, but it has its influence nevertheless as a moderator of crude greens.


  1. Just picked this plant to ID this past week, found 'draba' and am pleased to know I got it right. Such an inspirational little guy waving on the Cape Cod Canal's windy banks. Thx, John -- Joyce

  2. Great to catch up with your pictures, both photographic and sketched. The little Whitlow grass grows on stones walls and chalky pastures here, although it is not a plant I remember seeing. I need to look for it now.

  3. Great minds think alike, Joyce! :-) I am so surprised by the size of the pods and how those slender stems support them.

  4. It's rather easy to miss, Judith. The tiny glowers seem to float about. I'd like to pick up a few samples to photograph here in the cardboard studio.