Parnassia fimbriata

A bit of BPotD news before today’s entry: we finally have a date and time set to transition the web site over to the new server. It’s been a real headache for months, but hopefully the pain will be over by mid-week next week. On Monday @ 10am local time, we’ll start to move the site over. Unfortunately, since we’re also moving to a new server, the web site domain name needs to be pointed to the new server, and that means it may be a couple days before you are able to access content on the new site while the name propagates to the various Internet Service Providers. The old site will still be running for a few days, but comments will be turned off. Fingers crossed that all goes well!

The last time I featured a Parnassia on BPotD (over 5 years ago: Parnassia glauca), I wrote that the genus had been moved out of the Saxifragaceae (you’ll see that in many classification systems) and even out of the Saxifragales (the order containing the Saxifragaceae and related families) and into the Parnassiaceae (within the Celastrales). A number of research groups have since studied the relationships between Parnassiaceae and Celastraceae; current thought provisionally places Parnassia within the Celastraceae, but it seems (after reading the Phylogeny section on the linked page) that this may yet revert to being split again.

This August photograph of Parnassia fimbriata (fringed grass-of-Parnassus or Rocky Mountain grass-of-Parnassus) was taken only meters away from a second of British Columbia’s four Parnassia species, Parnassia kotzebuei. Parnassia is another genus I am always thrilled to encounter, as it was one of the first dozen or so I learned to recognize in Manitoba.

Parnassia fimbriata is native to much of western North America, where it grows in moist sites (fens, bogs, streamside, seeps, wet meadows) at elevations ranging from lowland to alpine. It is the tallest of these herbaceous species in British Columbia, occasionally reaching 50cm in height (though more typically 15 to 30cm). Parnassia kotzebuei, by comparison, is the shortest, ranging from 6-20cm.

Parnassia is a reference to Mount Parnassus; Linnaeus applied the name to the genus based on an account in Materia Medica, a written work by the Greek physician Dioscorides (Dioscorides called it Agrostis En Parnasso). The Plants for a Future database contains a listing of historical medicinal uses for Parnassia palustris, the species thought to have been described by Dioscorides (who also said of it: “That which grows in Cilicia (which the inhabitants call cinna) inflames rude beasts if often fed on when it is moist”.

For additional photographs, see Calphotos: Parnassia fimbriata or Southwest Colorado Wildflowers: Parnassia fimbriata.

Parnassia fimbriata

6 responses to “Parnassia fimbriata”

  1. Doug

    I am frightened of the possible classification split, but I THINK this is a nice sighting of Parmassia, near Anchorage, AK…
    Parnassia palustris, Marsh grass of Parnassus (AKA Bog star, Northern grass of Parnassus)

  2. David Sacks

    I am more frightened by the rude beasts, all inflamed from grazing on Parnassia!

  3. Connie

    I love the photo- your focus on the one w/ the others leading the eye up…

  4. elizabeth a airhart

    i will be happy to by pass all the rude beasts!
    i like this–neither specis really cares what family we humans place it in
    by way of one of your links
    will await the change not nag at you tis a big one -i would love to
    change the little hour glass icon thatcloses me down and tells me
    to report the error right now and have to close out ten little grey boxes
    thank you daniel

  5. Claudio Valle

    Saw plenty of parnassia palustris this past summer in the Carnic Alps in North Eastern Italy while I was photographing specimens of carlina acaulis…my reference book ” guida al’identificazione delle piante ” by Thomas Schauer and Claus Gaspari notes that the plant can be found above 2,500 meters. I saw many in a cow grazing area at 1,800 meters and a few even around 800 meters. A very beautiful and delicate flower

  6. chris czajkowski

    REALLY common at Nuk Tessli! Any idea what the appendages are for?

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