Carolina Whitlow Grass

Tomostima reptans (Lam.) Al-Shehbaz, M. Koch & Jordon-Thaden

Draba reptans
Paul Novak

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)
State Protection
Listed as Threatened by New York State: likely to become Endangered in the foreseeable future. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Imperiled in New York - Very vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 20 populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

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.

State Ranking Justification

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.

Short-term Trends

Most of the existing populations has been resurveyed and seem to be doing well with little change.

Long-term Trends

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.

Conservation and Management


The plants may be threatened by succession of red cedar if current management does not keep the habitat open.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

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.

Research Needs

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).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Calcareous cliff community* (guide)
    A community that occurs on vertical exposures of resistant, calcareous bedrock (such as limestone or dolomite) or consolidated material; these cliffs often include ledges and small areas of talus.
  • Calcareous red cedar barrens* (guide)
    A small-patch calcareous rocky summit community occurring on dry, south-facing to southwest-facing slopes and low summits. These sites are characterized by stunted, sparse woodlands with small grassland openings.
  • Limestone woodland* (guide)
    A woodland that occurs on shallow soils over limestone bedrock in non-alvar settings, and usually includes numerous rock outcrops. There are usually several codominant trees, although one species may become dominant in any one stand.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Antennaria
  • Aquilegia canadensis (wild columbine, red columbine)
  • Arabidopsis lyrata
  • Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort)
  • Berberis vulgaris (common barberry)
  • Bouteloua curtipendula
  • Carex eburnea (bristle-leaved sedge)
  • Centaurea
  • Daucus carota (wild carrot)
  • Draba verna (spring whitlow-grass)
  • Fragaria
  • Galium mollugo
  • Hedeoma hispida (rough-pennyroyal)
  • Hieracium
  • Juniperus virginiana
  • Lespedeza violacea (wand-like bush-clover)
  • Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
  • Rubus
  • Saxifraga virginiensis
  • Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Solidago
  • Symphyotrichum
  • Uvularia sessilifolia (wild-oats, sessile-leaved bellwort)


New York State Distribution

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.

Global Distribution

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.

Identification Comments

General Description

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.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

This species an be identified from flowers or fruit.

Similar Species

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.

Best Time to See

Draba reptans flowers from early April to mid-May, the fruits persist only to late August.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Carolina Whitlow Grass flowering and fruiting in New York.

Carolina Whitlow Grass Images


Carolina Whitlow Grass
Tomostima reptans (Lam.) Al-Shehbaz, M. Koch & Jordon-Thaden

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Capparales
          • Family Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Carolina Draba
  • White Whitlow Wort


  • Draba caroliniana Walter
  • Draba reptans (Lam.) Fern.

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

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.

Other References

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. 2024. 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 University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, 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 (


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: January 18, 2008

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Tomostima reptans. Available from: Accessed June 23, 2024.