Whitlowgrass – an overlooked ‘tiny’
On 7th April 2015 Sarah Jane Millar found patches of these tiny white flowers (about 6mm across) on a sunny bank beside the pavement in Drumbeg (NC1232). They are one of the whitlowgrasses Erophilaspp., an early-flowering annual which has been overlooked by local botanists, including ourselves, until recently. They are now known to be widespread in Assynt in fine sandy soils, often at the edges of pavements and roads, although they also occur in earthy pockets on top of the walls of the Iron Age Dun at Ardvar.
Whitlowgrasses may be distinguished from other small members of the cress family by their leafless flowering stems and forked petals. All our recent records are of glabrous whitlowgrass Erophila glabrescens, in which the petals are only split about halfway to their base. Something else to look for in the spring, though you may need to get down on your hands and knees to properly appreciate it!