What is Draba?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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Draba is a large genus of flowering plants found widely distributed throughout the world, with an estimated 300 species classified in this genus. The genus belongs to the mustard family and these plants are sometimes referred to as cruciferous plants, an antiquated name for members of the mustard family referencing the cross-like appearance of their flowers. Some species are cultivated by gardeners and plant enthusiasts and may be available from nurseries and through trades with other gardeners.

This genus is very diverse. It includes both annuals and perennials, along with plants adapted to a wide variety of climate conditions. Some Draba species prefer alpine environments and live in mountainous regions. Others are found in more temperate conditions or in the desert heat. These plants are durable, able to tolerate harsh conditions, and tend to be on the small side, especially in the case of alpine species. Small size is a common evolutionary trait in plants adapted for alpine environments, as it allows them to grow slowly and conserve energy in sometimes harsh conditions.

Typically, Draba species produce a basal rosette of elongated leaves ranging from silvery to bright green in color. Stalks rise from the middle of the rosette, producing clusters of white to yellow flowers. Some species produce deeply forked petals, while others grow smooth and rounded petals. A faint aroma can be present around the plant, especially when crushed, as seen with many members of the mustard family.


In the garden, Draba is popular with low water gardeners and gardeners looking for hardy plants tolerant of harsh soil conditions. Many species love rocky environments and do very well in rock gardens. They can also be grown in containers, for gardeners with limited space. The plants like moderate conditions, including well-drained, neutral soil. Some have higher or lower water requirements and the specific needs of a particular species are usually available from a nursery or gardening guide.

Some cultivars developed for cultivation in gardens have unusual characteristics like long leaves, distinctly colored foliage, and other traits. People who engage in trades with other gardeners may be able to access unique cultivars, including plants not made widely available commercially and cultivars gardeners may be developing on their own. Gardening websites can be a great resource for seed exchanges, connecting people with gardeners outside their area to provide access to a more varied array of Draba species for sale or trade.



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