Whitlow grass was the European name given to several inconspicuous wildflowers such as Saxifraga tridactylites, Draba verna and Paronychia which were thought to be a cure for the Whitlow. This is an infection of the end of the fingers and toes around the nail, as well as the hooves of animals, which caused painful inflammation. The genus Draba is from the Greek "drabe" meeting sharp or acrid and refers to the burning taste of the leaves of these medicinal plants. None of the five historical records from sandy habitats on Long Island and New York City have ever been found again and now the current populations are centered around similar habitats in Dutchess County.
There are eight existing populations but most of them are in a fairly small area of Dutchess County. There are four historical occurrences from the 1920s from Long Island that have not been relocated and one old record from the island of Manhattan that no longer exists.
Most of the existing populations has been resurveyed and seem to be doing well with little change.
Overall the long-term trend has been steady as historical populations from the 1920s on Long Island have not been relocated but seven new populations in Dutchess County have been found.
The plants may be threatened by succession of red cedar if current management does not keep the habitat open.
The open habitat needs to be maintained in the cedar glades where this species occurs. Management needs to be done later in the summer after seeds have been disbursed.
More survey work needs to be done on Long Island to see why this species disappeared after the 1920s even though much habitat remains. A lead in Jefferson County also needs to be followed up to see if this species occurs on the open limestone barrens.
In New York Draba reptans has been collected from open sites with exposed limestone bedrock or limey sand, often at cedar glades, and associated with a mixture of calciphilic species and weeds (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Dry, sterile or sandy soil (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Sandy banks and fields (Voss 1985).
Most New York records for this species are from Dutchess County in southern New York; there are also records from Long Island and Jefferson County in northern New York.
Draba reptans reaches the northeastern edge of its range in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It occurs in scattered states east of the Mississippi, and throughout the western US, in Canada from Ontario to British Columbia, and south into Mexico.
Carolina Whitlow-grass is an herbaceous annual growing up to 20 cm tall. It grows in the form of a rosette of leaves, crowded at the base, from which emerges a single, glabrous stem. The stem leaves are entire, or nearly so, and grow close to the rosette, well-separated from the crowded infloresence. The flowers are white, with petals 3-5 mm long, and the seeds are contained in an oblong fruit (a silique) (7) 10-14mm long and 5-8 times as long as broad.
This species an be identified from flowers or fruit.
Draba verna and D.reptans are the only annual (and thus, slender-rooted) species of Draba in New York. D. verna is a Eurasian species and its petals are bifid (cut in two) almost to the middle, while the petals of our native D. reptans are only slightly incised (less than 1 mm deep) at their very tips.
Draba reptans flowers from early April to mid-May, the fruits persist only to late August.
The time of year you would expect to find Carolina Whitlow Grass flowering and fruiting in New York.
Carolina Whitlow Grass
Tomostima reptans (Lam.) Al-Shehbaz, M. Koch & Jordon-Thaden
Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.
Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.
Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2021. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
Rhoads, Ann F. and Timothy A. Block. 2000. The Plants of Pennsylvania, an Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.
Voss, E.G. 1985. Michigan Flora. Part II. Dicots (Saururaceae - Cornaceae). Cranbrook Institute of Science and University of Michigan Herbarium. Ann Arbor, Michigan. 724 pp.
Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York
Weldy, Troy W. and David Werier. 2005. New York Flora Atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research. University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, NY. Available on the web at (http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/).
Information for this guide was last updated on: January 18, 2008
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2021. Online Conservation Guide for Tomostima reptans. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/carolina-whitlow-grass/. Accessed January 16, 2021.