Perhaps like you, there are a few books that I have to re-read periodically: Maybe not the entire book but certainly portions of it. One of those books is Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. This book, first published in 1949, and written by the father of modern wildlife management, is probably the best nature book I have ever read.

A short segment of the chapter April in his book is about a small plant called Draba, a member of the mustard family that grew on the sandy soils of his property along the Wisconsin River. Leopold was probably referring Draba verna or spring whitlowwort, a species not found in North Dakota. However, our North Dakota prairies are home to two similar Draba species: one with white flowers and one with yellow flowers. These plants are small inconspicuous spring wildflowers. They maybe grow to four inches in height, have tiny narrow leaves, and produce flowers that are only about a 1/16 of an inch wide.

Here is a bit of what Leopold had to say about Draba.

“Within a few weeks now Draba, the smallest flower that blows, will sprinkle every sandy place with small blooms….He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba…He who despairs of spring with downcast eye steps on it, unknowingly.”

“Botany books give it two or three lines, but never a plate or portrait….Draba plucks no heartstrings….No poets sing of it….All together it is of no importance – just a small creature that does a small job quickly and well.”

Make a point of taking some time to get out on some North Dakota prairie this spring, to enjoy the spring wildflowers and the other sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Draba and a few other small, seemingly insignificant plants will be growing, flowering, and setting seed quickly. They have to be quick before the taller grasses and wildflowers shade them out.

So enjoy the spring wildflower show. But do not forget the small spring wildflowers such as Draba. They can be just as beautiful and interesting as the showiest orchid.

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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