Northern Grass-of-Parnassus – Parnassia palustris

Bittersweet Family – Celastraceae

Northern Grass-of-Parnassus 2191

Actual flower is about 1 inch across.

Northern Grass-of-Parnassus is also called Marsh Grass-of-Parnassus or Small-flowered Grass-of-Parnassus.

Plant Description: Northern Grass-of-Parnassus has a stem which is 4 to 10 inches tall with a bract halfway up.  The leaves are basal with long stems, oval, blunt to heartshaped at the base, and tapered abruptly. There is a single white flower, about 1 inch across, at the end of the stem.

Flower Description: The 5 sepals are lance-shaped and the 5 white petals are ovate, not-clawed, up to .5 inches long, with light-green veins.  The 5 three-pronged, sterile stamen are tipped with drop-like, false nectaries and alternate with the 5 thickened, fertile stamen. The pistil is large with a 4-part stigma.

Ecology: Northern Grass-of-Parnassus grows at high elevations in moist, shaded areas along streams or around springs.


  • The leaves of Grass-of-Parnassus are not at all grass-like. “Grass-of-Parnassus” is an old name from a time when grass simply meant plant.
  • Until 2003, Parnassia was included in the Saxifrage Family. See the note on the Bittersweet Family page.

Northern Grass-of-Parnassus Gallery

Photo Information:

#2189-2193: July 22, 2012, Wapata Falls, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada .

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