Arabis pycnocarpa (Hairy Rock Cress)

Plant Info
Also known as: Cream-flower Rock-cress
Family:Brassicaceae (Mustard)
Life cycle:biennial, short-lived perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; open woods, prairies, streambanks, rock outcrops, cliffs, gravel bars
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:8 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Elongating cluster of stalked flowers, a few to several flowers in a cluster open at a time. Flowers are 1/8 to ¼ inch across with 4 rounded white petals and 6 creamy colored stamens in the center. The blooming cluster is erect or sometimes tilted to one side. A plant often has a single cluster at the top of the plant, sometimes multiples.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of basal leaves] Basal leaves are 1 to 3 inches long, 1/3 to 1 inch wide, spatula shaped to oblong, toothless or with a few small sharp teeth, usually with a blunt tip, tapering at the base to a short stalk, and covered in long stiff hairs. The leaf surface has a pimply appearance.

[photo of stem leaves] Stem leaves are 2/3 to 2¼ inches long, 1/8 to ¾ inch wide, egg-shaped to oblong, toothless or with a few small sharp teeth around the edges, blunt or pointed at the tip, stalkless or clasping the stem and often held erect, covered in long stiff hairs though the uppermost leaves may be hairless. The base of the leaf may be rounded or have a pair of small lobes (auricles). Stems are also covered in long stiff hairs at the base, becoming hairless to sparsely hairy in the upper plant. Stems are often single, though multiple stems may arise from the base of the plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a slender pod up to 3 inches long, usually erect and held close to the stem.


Hairy Rock Cress, formerly Arabis hirsuta, seems to grow just about anywhere and is rather variable depending on the habitat. In a part-shade open woods, we found it pretty robust, the stems rather leafy and the stem leaves relatively large. In a sunny open prairie, it took on a much more spindly appearance, the leaves narrower and more widely spaced on the stem. Regardless of habitat, it can be distinguished from other members of the mustard family with small white flowers by the long stiff hairs on leaves and stems. There are 2 varieties in North America, with var. pycnocarpa found in Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Swift and Dakota counties.


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