Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
This little, yellow-flowered, whitlow grass (Draba sp.) in Wave Hill’s T. H. Everett Alpine House was grown from seed exactly a year ago. It appeared among a batch of gentian seedlings and was spotted by one of our sharp-eyed gardeners.
Once separated from its foster-family siblings, it was given individual attention and has now rewarded us by blooming profusely this spring.
Despite the misleading common name, whitlow grass is not a grass but, in fact, a member of the mustard and cabbage family (Brassicaceae). There are more than 300 species of whitlow grass, most of them found growing wild in the mountains of North America, North Africa, Europe and Southwest Asia.
In medieval times, certain plants of this genus were used in the treatment of whitlows—painful inflammations on fingertips and toes.