CAROLINA GRASS OF PARNASSUS





(Parnassia Caroliniana) Saxifrage family



Flowers - Creamy white, delicately veined with greenish,

solitary, 1 in. broad or over, at the end of a scape 8 in. to 2

ft. high, 1 ovate leaf clasping it. Calyx deeply 5-lobed; corolla

of 5 spreading, parallel veined petals; 5 fertile stamens

alternating with them, and 3 stout imperfect stamens clustered at

base of each petal; 1 very short pistil with 4 stigmas. Leaves:

>From the root, on long petioles, broadly oval or rounded,

heart-shaped at base, rather thick.

Preferred Habitat - Wet ground, low meadows, swamps.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - New Brunswick to Virginia, west to Iowa.



What's in a name? Certainly our common grass of Parnassus, which

is no grass at all, never starred the meadows round about the

home of the Muses, nor sought the steaming savannas of the

Carolinas. The European counterpart (P. palustris), fabled to

have sprung up on Mount Parnassus, is at home here only in the

Canadian border States and northward.



At first analysis one is puzzled by the clusters of filaments at

the base of each petal. Of what use are they? We have seen in the

case of the beard-tongue and the turtle-head that even imperfect

stamens sometimes serve useful ends, or they would doubtless have

been abolished. A fly or bee mistaking, as he well may, the

abortive anthers for beads of nectar on this flower, alights on

one of the white petals, a convenient, spreading landing place;

but finding his mistake, and guided by the greenish lines, the

pathfinders to the true nectaries situated on the other side of

the curious fringy structures, he must, because of their

troublesome presence, climb over them into the center of the

flower to suck its sweets from the point where he will dust

himself with pollen in young blossoms. Of course he will carry

some of their vitalizing powder to the late maturing stigmas of

older ones. Without the fringe of imperfect stamens, that serves

as a harmless trellis easily climbed over, the visitor might

stand on the petals and sip nectar without rendering any

assistance in cross-fertilizing his entertainers.





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