This tiny plant called Draba verna L. is a true harbinger of spring. It is always one of the first flowers to makes its presence known each year. In Maryland, it can usually be seen blooming as early as February, and even in January, if temperatures are warm enough like this year (2017).
This member of the Brassicaceae family has several different “common” names. The one I usually hear it called is Whitlow Grass. The name- Erophila verna – is sometimes seen as a synonym in scientific literature.
It is native to Eurasia, and most literature I have seen says it has been introduced to North America. However, Wikipedia, without quoting a source, says it is now considered to be a native to North America. I have not found a source that validates this. If you know of such a source please let me know. At the very least, it is naturalized to North America.
It is found on the refuge in disturbed areas like the edge of parking lots, roads, and other open areas where there is bare soil. It is a highly variable species generally growing from about 1 inch to 3 inches tall. I have seen it attaining heights of over 6 inches in favorable conditions.
It is a hardy little guy that can truly be called a harbinger of spring.