Spring (Whitlow Grass) is here!

Spring Whitlow Grass

Erophila verna (Spring Whitlow Grass)

One of the first botanical signs of Spring is the aptly named Spring Whitlow Grass  (Erophila verna) (except it is NOT a grass, not even remotely!).  It’s a very common plant in urban habitats and there’s lots of it in car park 13 by the Harborne Building! But it can be so tiny you might miss it!  Get up close and you meet a very pretty little plant with its 4 tiny white petals forming a cruciform (cross) shape.  This is a give-away feature of the Cabbage family – Brassicaceae.  However the petals are (unusually for Brassicaceae) notched and this might explain why some students opt for Caryophyllaceae (the Pink family) because Caryophyllaceae has white flowers and often notched petals (think Chickweed, Stitchworts, Mouse-ears, Campions etc) but Caryophyllaceae has 5 petals NOT 4!  So if those students would just take a moment to listen to the plant, the 4-petals in a cross would shout (gently) “I’m BRASSICACEAE enjoy my pretty cruciform flowers!”

About drmgoeswild

Field botanist and ecologist, with a passion for plants and vegetation and teaching and learning (follow me at www.drmgoeswild.com)
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