Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Carolina Grass-of-Parnassus - Parnassia caroliniana   Michaux
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Section 6 » Order Rosales » Family Parnassiaceae
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AuthorMichaux
DistributionLimited to the southern third of the Coastal Plain, including the Sandhills region. Ranges north to Lee, Harnett, and Onslow counties; suitable habitat in Croatan National Forest (Craven and Carteret counties) is seemingly unoccupied. In 2019 Mike Martin discovered the first ever population on the Sandhills Game Land (Scotland County).

This species has a tiny global range, found only in southeastern NC, adjacent eastern SC, and disjunctly in the FL Panhandle.
AbundanceRare to locally uncommon, essentially limited to areas of Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), often where growing with Pond Pine (P. serotina).
HabitatThis species grows in damp pineland habitats, usually in wetter pine savannas and in pineland seepages. A few sites are in pine/cypress savannas. Most occurrences are in high pH soils over marl, though those in the Sandhills are not located over marl.
See also Habitat Account for Wet, Clayey, Fire-maintained Herblands
PhenologyBlooms very late in the season, from September to November, often not until October. Fruits soon after flowering.
IdentificationThis Parnassia has a basal cluster of ovate to orbicular leaves, each thick, glossy, and dark green. The blades are 1.5-2" long and nearly as wide, on long petioles. A few long flowering stalks, often to 1.5' tall, are present, each topped by a white flower with parallel lines/veins in green. The 5 petals are ovate and not clawed, and the spread flower is about 1.5" across. The range is mostly separate from the other two species in the genus, though P. grandifolia has a few populations in the southeastern Coastal Plain. That species is quite similar to P. caroliniana, but it has only 5-9 main veins on a petal, as opposed to 11-17 in P. caroliniana; its ovary is green as opposed to white in P. caroliniana.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Savanna Parnassia
State RankS2
Global RankG3
State StatusT
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