Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Arabis shortii
Toothed cress, Iodanthus dentatus, Short's rock cress, Rock cress, Sisymbrium dentatum

Synonyms: Arabis perstellata var. phalacrocarpa, Boechera dentata, Arabis shortii phalacrocarpa

Subspecific taxa:


  • Magnoliophyta

Other taxonomic & nomenclature sources: USDA PlantsITISThe Plant ListIPNI

Species Distribution
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County Map Legend
Not known from county
Medium confidence:
Medium or unknown confidence;
often old records or unverifiable observations
Medium-high confidence:
Often observations by expert botanists
High confidence:
Often vouchered herbarium records
Planted / introduced:
Native species introduced outside historic range,
or only in planted locations within county (e.g., restorations)
Historic / extirpated:
Only historic records for the species; likely extirpated
(Note that this category is not yet functional)

North American distribution maps for this species: FLNAUSDA PlantsBONAPBISON

Collections, Observations & Flowering by Month [?]


Collections & Observations by Decade [?]

Species Status

Status/Listing: No Information


Origin: Native

Species Description

General: Dicot-herb,

Roots: primary

Shoots: alternate, basal leaf arrangment; simple leaf type; dentate leaf margin; Pinnate leaf venation; linear, oblong, ovate, oblanceolate leaf shape

Inflorescence: raceme

Flowers: perfect; 4 merous; complete, regular; white; hypogynous ovary position

Fruit: silique

Physiology: autotrophic; C3 C02 fixation

Reproduction: sexual

Ecology & Natural History


ILPIN Notes: Species is rare in the southern half of the state. Species has glabrous siliques.

Functional Relationships:

  • Pollinators:
  • Dispersal:
  • Mycorrhizae:
  • N2 fixation:

Human Relationships:

  • Edibility [?] :
  • Showy Flowers: low

Wildlife and Livestock Information:

  • Food Value:
  • Cover Value:

Coefficient of Conservatism (C-value) [?] :

  • Entire State: 6
  • Chicago Area: 6

Comments & Questions

By: Cheryl Wiest
Post: 11/2017
Is this plant used by the Olympia Marble butterfly?

What about the other native Arabis species shown for occurence in Mason County?
IL Plant Response:
Hi Cheryl,

Good question.

What exactly do Olympia Marble caterpillars feed on?

I have not seen any references for Arabis shortii in particular being a host for Olympia Marbles. The Butterflies of Illinois lists the Olympia Marble as feeding on Rock Cresses. Unfortunately, that could mean several species. The references I have seen most often mention Sand Cress, Arabis lyrata as a common host plant. However, this plant does not occur in the southern half of Illinois (including Mason County), and the range of the Olympia Marble spans the north-south range of the state, especially along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers in the south.

See range map here

So it must be feeding on other Arabis species. The taller, so called, Woodland Rock Cresses such as Arabis shortii, seem less likely to be common larval foods because they typically grow in more shaded woodlands. Most butterflies do not tend to spend much time in the woods. But perhaps when Woodland Rock Cresses grow in, or nearby more open areas, they could work as host plants.

Perhaps this butterflys preferred habitat across Illinois is a clue to which rock cresses that it uses. It is most often encountered in sandy areas, dry hill prairies, and oak savannas. Determining which cressís are the most common in these types of habitats, in the Marbles Illinois range, would probably winnow down the most likely candidates that serve as the caterpillar food source.

In other parts of the country, the following plants have been listed as larval hosts: Arabis glabra, A. canadensis A. drummondi, A. serotina, A. petiolaris, A. laevigata, A. divaricarpa, and A. missouriensis. Some sources even list Marbles feeding on weedier mustard species such as Draba spp., Descurainia pinnata, and Sisymbrium officinale, though such reports are rare. Since this butterfly is rather uncommon throughout its range, having a better knowledge of its preferred caterpillar food sources would certainly be helpful for its conservation. Answering this mystery would take a good bit of walking around and finding Cress plants of different species across the region and checking the plants for Marble caterpillars. No easy task.

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