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Hoary Whitlowgrass

Draba incana

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Brassicaceae (Cabbage)
Also in this family:
Alpine Pennycress, Alpine Rock-cress, American Wintercress, Annual Wall Rocket, Austrian Yellowcress, Awlwort, Bastard Cabbage, Black Mustard, Bristol Rock-cress, Charlock, Common Scurvygrass, Common Whitlowgrass, Coralroot, Creeping Yellowcress, Cuckooflower, Dame's-violet, Danish Scurvygrass, Dittander, Early Wintercress, Eastern Rocket, English Scurvygrass, Evergreen Candytuft, False London Rocket, Field Pennycress, Field Pepperwort, Flixweed, Garden Arabis, Garden Candytuft, Garden Cress, Garden Radish, Garden Rocket, Garlic Mustard, Glabrous Whitlowgrass, Gold of Pleasure, Great Yellowcress, Greater Cuckooflower, Greater Periwinkle, Greater Swinecress, Hairy Bittercress, Hairy Rock-cress, Hairy Rocket, Hairy Whitlowgrass, Hedge Mustard, Hoary Cress, Hoary Mustard, Hoary Stock, Honesty, Horseradish, Hutchinsia, Hybrid Watercress, Intermediate Periwinkle, Isle of Man Cabbage, Large Bittercress, Lesser Swinecress, London Rocket, Lundy Cabbage, Marsh Yellowcress, Mountain Scurvygrass, Narrow-fruited Watercress, Narrow-leaved Bittercress, Narrow-leaved Pepperwort, Northern Rock-cress, Northern Yellowcress, Oilseed Rape, Perennial Rocket, Perennial Wall Rocket, Perfoliate Pennycress, Pinnate Coralroot, Purple Rock-cress, Pyrenean Scurvygrass, Rock Whitlowgrass, Russian Rocket, Scottish Scurvygrass, Sea Kale, Sea Radish, Sea Rocket, Sea Stock, Shepherd's Cress, Shepherd's Purse, Small-flowered Wintercress, Smith's Pepperwort, Steppe Cabbage, Swede, Sweet Alyssum, Tall Rocket, Thale Cress, Tower Mustard, Treacle Mustard, Trefoil Cress, Turnip, Wall Whitlowgrass, Wallflower, Wallflower Cabbage, Warty Cabbage, Watercress, Wavy Bittercress, White Mustard, Wild Cabbage, Wild Candytuft, Wild Radish, Wild Turnip, Wintercress, Woad, Yellow Whitlowgrass
Life Cycle:
Biennial or Perennial
Maximum Size:
30 centimetres tall
Grassland, rocky places, sand dunes.

White, 4 petals
Small clusters of tiny flowers, 3 to 5mm in size. The petals are slightly notched.
Egg-shaped, flattened pods which become twisted when ripe.
The stem and basal leaves are lance-shaped and toothed. Biennial or short-lived perennial.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Draba incana is a species of flowering plant belonging to the family Brassicaceae. Its native range is Canada to Northern Central and Northeastern USA, with isolated populations in the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta. It is a small forb (10-40cm) of rocky shores, with a basal rosette of small leaves, and stems that bear numerous (less than 20) leaves. The flowers are white with four petals and the flower stalk is densely hairy. It is an easily recognizable plant due to its thick-leaved rosette of narrow hairy leaves from which a single erect flowering shoot arises. It is a biennial or perennial herb, growing to a height of 10-30cm, and is usually found on limestone rock ledges, screes and pavements, and occasionally in grassland.


Hoary Whitlowgrass: A Unique and Adaptable Plant

Hoary Whitlowgrass (Draba incana) is a species of flowering plant that is native to the northern hemisphere, found in temperate and alpine regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is a small, low-growing herb that reaches only a few centimeters in height and is easily distinguished by its delicate, white flowers and hoary leaves.

Hoary Whitlowgrass is a member of the mustard family and is classified as a subalpine species, meaning that it is well adapted to life in harsh, high-altitude environments. Despite its small size and delicate appearance, Hoary Whitlowgrass is a hardy plant that can survive in conditions where other plants struggle to survive. This is due in part to its deep taproot, which allows it to tap into water and nutrients even in areas where soil is scarce or rocky.

One of the most interesting things about Hoary Whitlowgrass is its ability to thrive in a variety of different habitats. It can be found growing in rocky outcroppings, talus slopes, and gravelly soils, but is also able to colonize areas of disturbed soil, such as those created by mining or construction. This ability to adapt to different environments makes Hoary Whitlowgrass an important component of many high-altitude ecosystems, where it provides important habitat and food for a variety of wildlife.

In addition to its ecological significance, Hoary Whitlowgrass is also of interest to botanists and plant enthusiasts. The plant's delicate, white flowers and hoary leaves are unique features that set it apart from other plants in its family, and its ability to survive in harsh, high-altitude environments makes it a fascinating subject for study.

Hoary Whitlowgrass is a unique and adaptable plant that plays an important role in high-altitude ecosystems and is of interest to botanists and plant enthusiasts alike. Despite its small size and delicate appearance, Hoary Whitlowgrass is a hardy and resilient species that is well adapted to life in the harshest environments.

Additionally, Hoary Whitlowgrass has several medicinal properties that make it a valuable plant in traditional medicine. The plant's leaves, roots, and seeds have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including skin conditions, respiratory problems, and digestive issues. The plant's anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties make it an effective treatment for wounds and other skin conditions, while its expectorant properties make it a useful remedy for respiratory problems such as coughs and bronchitis.

In some cultures, Hoary Whitlowgrass has been used as a food source, with its leaves and seeds being eaten either raw or cooked. However, it is important to note that the plant contains small amounts of toxic compounds, so it should only be consumed in small quantities and after proper preparation.

Despite its many benefits, Hoary Whitlowgrass is considered a threatened species in some parts of its range due to habitat loss and degradation. Conservation efforts are underway to protect this important plant, including the protection of its habitats and the restoration of degraded areas. In addition, research is being conducted to better understand the plant's ecological and medicinal properties, with the goal of finding new and innovative ways to conserve and utilize this valuable species.

Hoary Whitlowgrass is a fascinating and valuable plant that plays an important role in high-altitude ecosystems and has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Despite its threatened status in some parts of its range, conservation efforts are underway to protect this unique and adaptable species, and ongoing research is helping to better understand its many benefits.

In addition to its medicinal and ecological importance, Hoary Whitlowgrass is also an important species for ecologists and conservationists. The plant's ability to adapt to different habitats and survive in harsh environments makes it a useful indicator of environmental change and a useful tool for monitoring the health of high-altitude ecosystems.

For example, changes in the distribution or abundance of Hoary Whitlowgrass can be used to monitor the effects of climate change on high-altitude ecosystems. This is because the plant is sensitive to changes in temperature and precipitation, and its distribution and abundance are directly influenced by these factors. By monitoring the plant's response to environmental change, ecologists and conservationists can gain valuable insights into the impacts of climate change on high-altitude ecosystems and the species that depend on them.

In addition, Hoary Whitlowgrass is also a useful tool for monitoring the impact of human activities, such as mining, logging, and road construction, on high-altitude ecosystems. The plant's ability to colonize areas of disturbed soil makes it a valuable indicator of soil degradation and the loss of healthy habitats. By monitoring the plant's response to these activities, conservationists and land managers can assess the impact of human activities on high-altitude ecosystems and develop strategies to minimize their impact.

In conclusion, Hoary Whitlowgrass is a valuable species for ecologists, conservationists, and land managers, providing important information about the health of high-altitude ecosystems and the impacts of environmental change and human activities. By monitoring this species and protecting its habitats, we can help to conserve and protect the unique and delicate ecosystems that support this important plant.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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