GRASS-OF-PARNASSUS

Parnassia palustris

Grass-of-Parnassus Family [Parnassiaceae]  
Formerly in: Saxifrage Family [Saxifragaceae]

month8jul month8july month8Aug month8sep month8sept

status
statusZnative
flower
flower8white
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8round

7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A colossus of Parnassus


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Single flowers atop mostly leafless square stalks, which may sometimes be twisted or contorted.


8th July 2014, dune slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Three of a kind. The five out-stretched white 'arms' within are 5 of the 10 stamens, but these 5 have mostly already lost their anthers.


8th July 2014, dune slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Flower bud opening.


8th July 2014, dune slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Getting larger. Flower stalks are fluted and sometimes square.


16th Aug 2003, Cumbria Photo: © Fred Johnstone
Globular flower at first.


16th Aug 2003, Cumbria Photo: © Fred Johnstone
A peek at the innards.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The stems are concavely square. Five green pointed sepals support the flower.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Five white petals.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The petals have many deep greenish grooves or veins. The very central bulge (the ovary) is surrounded by five cream-coloured anthers now devoid of pollen, which are themselves surrounded by five sets of yellowish-green coloured sterile stamens which split up into about a dozen stalk-like filaments, each stalk ending in a shiny blob: the false nectarines.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The false nectarines attract pollinators.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
There are ten stamens, but only five anthers; the other five are melliferous at the bottom and crowned by as many as seventeen yellow globular glands (the false 'nectarines') which resemble drops of honey, but are in fact dry. It is possible they serve to attract flies, since in the sun (only), the flower smells sweet-scented.


8th July 2014, dune slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The topmost 'arm' is a stamen with an anther covered in pollen, the other four have either lost their pollen or are stretching off-screen having lost the anther entirely.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
There are about 12 spherical yellow false-nectarines (born on meliferous anthers) nestled just above each of 5 petals. The ovary (pink/white in this example) has 5 double-lobed styles atop.


23rd July 2015, Birkdale dunes, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The globular false-nectarines up close.


25th Sept 2009, Marshland, Great Burney, Grizebeck, Cumbria. Photo: © RWD
The deeply folded petals. The white stamens visible are without anthers.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The five sets of nectarines are interspersed with five longer stamens which once bore anthers.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The central seed head begins to form surrounded by the false nectarines.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Seed head shedding petals. False nectarines and stamens without anthers still present.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The membranous seed head many-seeded, the seeds being minute, weighing about 30µgram, which allows the seeds to be blown out of the capsule by the wind. Nectarines still present around it.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The leaves are Ace of Spades shaped. The basal leaves are on long stalks.


7th Aug 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
A single stemless leaf clasps the stem less than a quarter-way up.


9th Sept 2009, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The spent flower gone to fruit. The minute seeds within probably long since dispersed by the wind from vortexes generated at the opening.


9th Aug 2014, Ainsdale Sand Dune Slacks, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The leaves look as though they are perfoliate, pierced by the flower stalk, but they are not; the leaf only partially surrounds the stem and joins it by melding in as it curves steeply down to meet the stem. The stem itself is thin rectangular where the leaf joins it and has a rectangular rib on both sides too; reminiscent of the stalks on Blue-eyed-Grass.


Some similarities to: Wood-Sorrel Uniquely identifiable characteristics. A 5-petalled very low, buttercup-like (but white) flower growing low but upright almost hidden by grass.

Grass-of-Parnassus is very much a plant of northern Britain rather than southern.

No relation to : Grass

Apparently, the above photographs taken on the Sefton Coast are a coastal compact form, var. condensata (which the BSBI website does not mention). This is possibly an example of cytopolyploidy, a variation in the chromosome numbers in varieties of Grass-of-Parnassus.

It grows on peaty soil, and here on the Sefton Coast is at the bottom of an old slack which must regularly become wet with lying water in winter. It smells sweet only when the sun is shining and is the County Flower of Cumberland and Sutherland.


  Parnassia palustris  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Parnassiaceae  

Distribution
family8Grass-of-Parnassus family8Parnassiaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Parnassia
Parnassia
(Grass-of-Parnassus)

GRASS-OF-PARNASSUS

Parnassia palustris

Grass-of-Parnassus Family [Parnassiaceae]  
Formerly in: Saxifrage Family [Saxifragaceae]

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