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Kevin Doyle

Rock Whitlow-grass (Draba arabisans)

Life history

Species overview

Rock Whitlow-grass (Draba arabisans), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on exposed to shaded (often by white cedar) dolomite cliffs. Blooming occurs late June through late July; fruiting occurs early July through early September. The optimal identification period for this species is early July through early September.

Synonyms: Draba arabisans var. arabisans, D. arabisans var. superiorensis


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Distinguished from D. glabella by having no simple trichomes on the bottom half of the stem. Each species has some star-shaped trichomes on the abaxial leaf surface, but these are sessile in D. arabisans and stalked in D. glabella.
  • Flower characteristics: Loose, branched cluster (cyme); head to 10 cm long; flowers white, 4-parted, buds yellow.
  • Fruit characteristics: pod long, narrow, smooth, twisting.
  • Leaf characteristics: Lower leaves oblong, often with sharp teeth, hairy.


  • Blooming phenology: late June through late July
  • Fruiting phenology: early July through early September
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is early July through early September


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Thuja occidentalis, Zigadenus elegans, Solidago hispida, Abies balsamea, Betula alleghaniensis, B. papyrifera, Acer spicatum, Cystopteris bulbifera, Asplenium rhizophyllum, Cryptogramma stelleri.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Rock Whitlow-grass (Draba arabisans). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Draba arabisans in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG4G5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found on exposed to shaded (often by white cedar) dolomite cliffs.
  • Soils: Rocky, calcareous soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Rock Whitlow-grass. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score
Dry Cliff 3
Moist Cliff 3

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Rock Whitlow-grass. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.
  • Avoid direct disturbance to sensitive microsites such as seeps, cliffs, and moss-covered boulders.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Follow BMPs, especially around streams and use care near ravines, steep slopes, cliffs, rock outcrops, etc.
  • Buffer management around unique microhabitats such as ephemeral ponds, seeps, etc.


Rock Whitlow-grass Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Rock Whitlow-grass Photo.

Draba arabisans growing on a dolomite ledge of the Niagara Escarpment.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Rock Whitlow-grass Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Rock Whitlow-grass Photo.

Photo by Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin DNR.

Rock Whitlow-grass Photo.

Photo © Emmet Judziewicz.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition