CPC Plant Profile: Carolina Grass-of-Parnassus
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Plant Profile

Carolina Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia caroliniana)

This picture shows the characteristic flower of the species. Photo Credit: L. Smith
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Celastraceae
  • State: FL, NC, SC
  • Nature Serve ID: 136440
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 02/09/1992

Parnassia caroliniana is a moisture-loving species that occurs in the Coastal Plain and Sandhills of the southeast. It grows in fire-maintained, wet savannas and in ecotonal areas between pine uplands and seepage slopes or streamhead pocosins. The solitary white flowers of Carolina grass-of-parnassus are notable for their conspicuous green veins, which create a delicate pattern on the petals. In the early 1900s, the abundance of this species was noted by H.A. Rankin: hundreds of acres may be seen liberally dotted with its white starsit finds its best development in the lower places, and here it often almost covers the ground (Alexander 1934). This is not the case today, with activities such as timber production and commercial and residential development causing alteration of hydrology and fire regimes, which has diminished the range of Parnassia caroliniana and continues to pose a significant threat to its habitat. The Carolina grass-of-parnassus closely resembles one of its rare relatives, Parnassia grandiflora, or large-leaved grass-of-parnassus. Both have basal leaves that are rounded with long leafstalks as well as a single, stalkless rounded leaf on the flower stalk. These two species can be distinguished primarily by their flowers, which appear in November for both species. The flowers of P. caroliniana have 9-18 green, brown, or yellow veins on each of its five white oval petals while P. grandiflora has only 5-9 bright green veins on each of its five white oval petals. (FNAI 2000)

Participating Institutions
Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Over 80 element occurrences. Threats to habitat, primarily from timber production activities, are high; other threats include fire suppression, residential and commercial development, road expansion and vehicular activities. Sporadic distribution; it seems to have diminished in range.

  • 01/01/2010

Habitat loss (due to development, agriculture, timber production) Fire suppression (NatureServe 2001)

  • 01/01/2010

Over 80 element occurrences (NatureServe 2001)

  • 01/01/2010

Hydrologists Joel Wagner and Michael Martin of the National Park Service are restoring Savannah Wetland at Moores Creek National Battlefield, North Carolina. Included is an investigation of the effects of temporary hydrologic restoration and a prescribed burn regime on populations of Parnassia caroliniana as well as other species of this NC Coastal Plain savanna community. Dr. George Folkerts, Auburn University. Surveying pitcher-plant bogs in the Gulf Coastal Plain (Alabama) to determine occurrence, abundance and response to disturbance of several plant species, including Parnassia caroliniana.

  • 01/01/2010

Active management/management research in North Carolina and Alabama.

  • 01/01/2010

Survey for additional occurrences, especially in Georgia and Alabama. Monitor existing populations Seek conservation of wet savanna habitat Research reproductive biology

  • 01/01/2010

Obtain seed from more populations Establish protocol for germination


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Taxon Parnassia caroliniana
Authority Michx.
Family Celastraceae
CPC Number 3099
ITIS 24207
Common Names Carolina grass-of-parnassus | Carolina grass of Parnassus
Associated Scientific Names Parnassia caroliniana | Parnassia floridana
Distribution North Carolina, South Carolina, and disjunct to the Florida panhandle. (FNAI 2000)
State Rank
State State Rank
Florida S2
North Carolina S2
South Carolina S2

Both Parnassia species (P. caroliniana and P. grandiflora) grow in wet prairies and open, grassy seepage slopes. (FNAI 2000)

Ecological Relationships

Found with Pinus palustris, Pinus serotina, Taxodium ascendens, especially where shallowly underlain by coquina limestone (Weakley 2000).

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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