Sunday, November 15, 2009

Large-leaved grass-of-Parnassus - Parnassia grandifolia

The large-leaved grass-of-parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia) is truly one of the most spectacular of Florida's wildflowers.  There is nothing quite like it anywhere - with its brilliant white petals, streaked by a netting of bright olive green.  While its close cousin, Carolina grass-of-parnassus (C. caroliniana), occurs only in Florida around the Apalachicola National Forest and in a few pockets within the Carolinas in similar habitat, large-leaved grass-of-parnassus occurs in much of the Southeast - though never commonly.
This is a deciduous species.  The rounded basal leaves are several inches long and are often hidden in the grasses of the glades it occurs in.
Blooming is rather abbreviated and occurs in October and November.  The 3-foot tall flower stalks arise above the understory and are held erect. A solitary bud occurs atop each stalk.
The Parnassia family has representatives across North America.  They are, in no way, related to grasses. Parnassus, in both the common and scientific names, dedicates these plants to the Muses, for snowcapped Mount Parnassus, in Greece, was celebrated as their home. The 5 fan-shaped, finger-tipped staminodia of Parnassia are distinctive.

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