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See also Draba aurea and Noccaea fendleri.

Draba cuneifolia

For the first several weeks of growth, Draba cuneifolia basal leaves and flowers are so inconspicuous that they often go unnoticed.  But mature flowering plants, especially in their common masses, are noticeable and very attractive.

Draba cuneifolia

Draba cuneifolia
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyons de Chelly National Monument, March 26, 2007 and
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 26, 2011.

The seed pods, shown in the photograph immediately above, catch our attention just about as much as the flowers.

Draba cuneifolia

Draba cuneifolia

Draba cuneifolia (Wedge-leaf Draba)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring. 
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 27, 2005 and April 21, 2016.

Tiny can be terrific.  Early spring in the semi-desert country of the Four Corners finds carpets of Draba cuneifolia in Pinyon/Juniper forests.   Draba cuneifolia is easily confused with Noccaea fendleri but a close look shows clear differences: notice especially D. cuneifolia's wedge-shaped basal leaves, nearly leafless flower stem, shorter height, and elliptical seed pods.

The Draba genus was named by Linnaeus in 1753 and Draba cuneifolia was named by Thomas Nuttall in 1838 from a specimen collected in Kentucky by Professor C. W. Short.  (Professor Short was honored by William Jackson Hooker as one of the two best botanical collectors from whom he had received specimens.  See the fifth paragraph in the biographical entry about David Townsend, the other collector honored by Hooker).  

"Draba", Greek for "acrid", was a name applied to similar Mustards known to the Greeks thousands of years ago.  "Cune" is Latin for "wedge", referring to the leaf shape.

Draba cuneifolia
Draba cuneifolia (Wedge-leaf Draba)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 27, 2007.

As the above left photograph with the ruler shows, basal leaves glisten as if they were glabrous (smooth), but as the photograph at left shows, they glisten because of the bright reflection of light from hundreds of tiny stellate (starburst-like, branched) hairs.  You can best see the stellate shape of the hairs at the upper and lower right edges of the leaves. Also see the hairs at the edge of the leaves in the last two photographs below of Draba reptans.

Also notice the slight notch, like a tiny thumb on a mitten, on the leaves -- especially apparent on the two larger leaves at three and six o'clock. As discussed below, these tiny notches are one of several key characteristics that separate Draba cuneifolia from its look-alike cousin, Draba reptans.

Draba cuneifolia
Draba cuneifolia (Wedge-leaf Draba)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, March 27, 2005.

Below a fluff of white flowers, green seeds emerge.

Draba reptans
Draba reptans (Spreading Draba)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2007.

Draba reptans is very similar to Draba cuneifolia in size, flower and seed appearance, hairiness, and habitat.

Draba reptans
Draba reptans (Spreading Draba)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, May 8, 2007.

A number of subtle characteristics help separate Draba reptans from Draba cuneifolia
1) Draba reptans' basal leaves are most often not notched whereas the basal leaves of D. cuneifolia leaves are often notched.
2) The seed pods of D. reptans are grouped fairly tightly in a nearly vertical posture; the pods of D. cuneifolia are in a more open, spreading posture.
3) The upper portion of the stem of D. reptans is usually glabrous versus the hairiness of the upper portion of the stem of D. cuneifolia.
4) The seed pods of D. reptans are rarely over 2 millimeters wide; those of D. cuneifolia are often over 2 mm wide.
5) The seed pods of D. reptans are up to 20 mm long; those of D. cuneifolia do not exceed 15 mm in length.

Draba reptans

Draba reptans

Draba reptans

Draba reptans (Spreading Draba)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)

Semi-desert.  Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 9, 2012 and April 18, 2010.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Draba cuneifolia

Range map for Draba reptans