One of my targets, Wedge-leaved Whitlow-grass, Draba cuneifolia. A gorgeous but VERY diminutive plant, and a very early bloomer. Most were in full flower, but a few had already formed fruit, which in mustards are termed siliques, or pods.
A closeup of the basal rosette of leaves of Wedge-leaved Whitlow-grass. The whole thing is probably not even is big as a quarter. Like most little things, though, upon close inspection these mustards are filled with interesting and beautiful detail. You'll have to lay on the ground to appreciate it, though.My friend John Howard had told me what a fantastic year it is for these rare little mustards, and he was quite right. This one is called Michaux's Leavenworthia, Leavenworthia uniflora. At the sites that I saw it, there were scads in bloom. Two botanists are immortalized in the naming of this one. Dr. Melines Conklin Leavenworth was a U.S. Army surgeon, exlorer, and botanist. The legendary botanist Andre Michaux explored and described many plants from the eastern U.S. in the late 1700's.
A rather cheery looking little plant, and Leavenworthia certainly adds a jolt of brightness to otherwise barren early spring prairies. It, like the other mustards in this post, require very barren rocky or sandy substrates, largely free from competing plants.Here's an entire plant, in all of its quarter-sized glory. Unlike the simple leaves of our Drabas, Leavenworthia basal rosette leaves are compound, and might remind you of other mustards such as various cresses.
After a suitable period of time admiring the prairie plants, it was on to Sandy-Spring Cemetery. Located right along the Ohio River in southernmost Adams County, this cemetery contains one of rarest and best remaining examples of one of our rarest habitats, an Ohio River sand terrace. The entire bend of the river, including the cemetery, is essentially an enormous pile of sand washed into this inside bend of a huge, sweeping curve of the river. Most of the original sand terraces are destroyed, either by agriculture or outright development. This small cemetery has many rare plants, and a particularly interesting feature is the profusion of Prickly-pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa, which is native here.
Little Whitlow-grass, Draba brachycarpa. This is one of only two known Ohio sites, and amongst the furthest north known sites. I'm not sure anyone has seen the other population in a decade or so. It occurs in a cemetery along the Ohio River in Lawrence County, but that site is far better groomed than is this cemetery, and that is not a good thing for rare plants. This little plant is truly a stunner, but it is REALLY small!
The backdrop of this dime gives a dimensional scale to this tiny plant. This individual was a whopper, too - that's why I chose to photograph it.