Spring whitlow-grass blooming on vernallymoist soils about 3 miles downstream along the Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon State Park.......March 22, 2019.
Spring whitlow-grass is a small annual that is easy to overlook because of its diminutive size, yet it is often one of the most abundant flowering plants underfoot in the west. The leaves are basal, in a rosette, and are often covered with stiff, branched hairs. The leaf shape ranges from spatulate to oblanceolate, with entire to toothed leaf margins. The leaves range from 10-25 mm long. The one to several stems range from 5-20 cm tall, and are leafless.
The inflorescence is a loose raceme with 3-20 flowers. The 4 white petals are cleft or split so the flowers look like they have 8 petals. The petals are about 2.5 mm long. The flowers and later the seed capsules alternate along the stem. The seed capsules of variety boerhaavii are elliptic-obovate to obovate silicles, which average 4-5 mm long and 3.5 mm wide.
Variety boerhaavii: Silicles elliptic-obovate to obovate in shape and 4-5 mm long and 3.5 mm wide. Found from Washington south to California and widespread in the eastern United States.
Variety verna: Silicles elliptic to elliptic-oblanceolate in shape and usually about 7 mm long and 2 mm wide. Found occasionally in Oregon and Washington and east to Montana and widespread in the eastern United States.
Spring whitlow-grass grows on dry open ground, often in grassy plains.
Spring whitlow-grass is found throughout much of North America.
Spring whitlow-grass as seen near the crest of the Columbia Hills in the Columbia River Gorge.......late April, 2005. Note the broad silicle emerging from the flower at right. Note also the deeply bi-lobed petals, a characteristic of this species.