Tomostima cuneifolia (Synonym: Draba cuneifolia)
Brassicaceae (Mustard Family)
Semi-desert. Shrublands, woodlands, openings. Spring.
Tiny can be terrific. Early spring in the semi-desert country of the Four Corners brings carpets of Draba cuneifolia, especially around the base of Pinyons and Junipers. Draba cuneifolia is easily confused with Noccaea montana but a close look shows clear differences: notice especially D. cuneifolia's wedge-shaped basal leaves, leafless stalk, 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. The other collector was West Chester, Pennsylvania resident, David Townsend of Townsendia fame.
"Draba", Greek for "acrid", was a name applied to similar Mustards known to the Greeks thousands of years ago, and "cune" is Latin for "wedge", referring to the leaf shape.