E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Parnassia palustris L.
northern grass-of-Parnassus (marsh grass of Parnassus)
Celastraceae (Bittersweet family)
(Previously in Parnassiaceae)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #8183)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Parnassia palustris
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Species Information

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Perennial herb from a short rootstock and fibrous root; stems ascending to erect, usually solitary, simple, 10-25 (30) cm tall.
Basal leaves egg-shaped to elliptic, 1-2 cm long, blunt to heart-shaped at the base, entire, the stalks 1.5-4 times as long as the blades; stem leaves solitary, reduced, 2.8-3 cm long, located below midlength.
Inflorescence of single terminal flowers; petals 5, white, narrowly to broadly egg-shaped, 6-12 mm long, usually 7- to 13-veined; sterile stamens with a thickened base flared upwards and divided into 15 slender segments.
Capsules egg-shaped, 10-12 mm long; seeds numerous.
A poorly studied complex.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Summer
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to wet meadows, fens and streambanks in the montane and subalpine zones; common throughout all but extreme S BC east of the Coast-Cascade Mountains; circumpolar, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to MI, ND, WY and CA; Iceland, Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Parnassia palustris

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 425 1023 2000
Slope Gradient (%) 0 6 77
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
8 27 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
2 6 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BAFA(1), BWBS(58), ESSF(27), ICH(8), IDF(4), IMA(1), MS(5), SBPS(6), SBS(20), SWB(4)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Parnassia palustris var. montanensis (Fernald & Rydb. ex Rydb.) C.L. Hitchc.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References