Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago

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S.G. Aiken, M.J. Dallwitz, L.L. Consaul, C.L. McJannet, R.L. Boles, G.W. Argus, J.M. Gillett, P.J. Scott, R. Elven, M.C. LeBlanc, L.J. Gillespie, A.K. Brysting, H. Solstad, and J.G. Harris

Parnassia kotzebuei Cham. ex Spreng.

English: Kotzebue's grass-of-Parnassus,

French: Parnassie de Kotzebue.

Saxifragaceae, Saxifrage family.

Published in Syst. Veg. 1: 951. 1824.

Type: Described from U.S.A.: Alaska: Eschscholtz Bay and Unalaska, and Russia: eastern Chukotka: Lavrentiy Bay.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 5–10(–20) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Taproot present (short), or only fibrous roots present. Caudex present (short and small). Aerial stems erect (condensed). Leaves heterophyllous (with or without a petiole), or not heterophyllous; mainly basal, or basal in a rosette; patent; alternate; marcescent. Petioles present; 2–10 mm long (upper leaves sometimes sub-sessile); glabrous. Leaf blades simple. Leaf blade bases cordate, or rounded, or attenuate. Blades 5–12 mm long, 4–10 mm wide, ovate, flat, veins palmate or with inconspicuous veins. Blade adaxial surface glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous. Blades not lobed. Hydathodes absent (small surface glands present). Blade apices acute, or obtuse.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems without leaves. Flowers solitary. Flowers medium-sized. Sepals conventional; 5; free; 1.5–2.2(–3) mm long; 5–7 mm wide; green; herbaceous. Calyx glabrous. Petals conventional; free; longer than the calyx, or same length as the calyx; 5; white; ovate, or elliptic; unlobed; 4–7 mm long; 2–3 mm wide. Stamens present, or absent; (3–)5–8(–10) (with staminoidia: thin scales that are entire or with gland-tipped segments); stamen filaments glabrous; free of the corolla. Anthers yellow; ovoid, or sub-globose; 0.8–1 mm long. Nectaries present. Receptacle 2.5–3 mm high. Ovary superior; carpels 2–4; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles absent. Placentation axile. Ovules per ovary 100–120 (approx.). Fruit with calyx persisting; dry; a capsule; spherical, or ovoid; brown (pale); 6–12 mm long; 6–12 mm wide; dehiscent; splitting to the base into separate segments. Seeds 100–120 (approx.); 0.4–0.6 mm long; brown (orange tinged); surfaces smooth and winged (wing with reticulate markings).

Chromosome information. 2n = 18 and 36.

(2n) (2x) = 18. Jakobsen, in Jørgensen et al. (1958, Greenland); Packer (1964, northwestern Canada); Zhukova (1966, northeastern Asia; 1980, southern Chukotka; 1982, northeastern Asia); Hedberg (1967, northern Canada); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Zhukova and Petrovsky (1971, Wrangel Island); Zhukova et al. (1973, 1977, northeastern Asia); Löve and Löve (1982a, Arctic Canada);

(2n) (4x) = 36. Löve and Ritchie (1966, central Canada).

Ploidy levels recorded 2x and 4x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. The occurrence of this species is indicative of damp depressions such as lake shores and snow patch areas. Polunin (1940) reported the northernmost record as being from the Yukon, Herschel Island, 69°34'N. Since then more northerly records have been collected in the N.W.T. from Banks and Victoria Islands. The Banks Island collection is from Egg River, 72°27'N (Canada).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: imperfectly drained moist areas, dry (often beside lakes and creeks). This species flowers and ripens seed plentifully (Polunin 1940).

North American distribution. Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories Islands, continental Northwest Territories, Nunavut Islands, continental Nunavut, northern Quebec, Labrador. Range in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago widespread (extending to western Greenland and northeastern Asia across the subarctic and boreal regions from southern Greenland and Baffin to Alaska). Uncommon, rare (common on continental North America). Low Arctic, alpine. Arctic islands: Baffin, Banks, and Victoria.

Northern hemisphere distribution. Amphi-Beringian, or North American. Yana–Kolyma, West Chukotka, Wrangel Island, South Chukotka, East Chukotka, West Alaska, North Alaska – Yukon, Central Canada, Labrador – Hudson Bay, West Greenland.

General notes. Polunin (1940) commented that although this species is in places quite frequent, it does not appear to have been properly recorded from within the Arctic islands. It is generally around 10 cm in height in the late flowering or fruiting condition, but varies somewhat in the size and robustness of the leaves and in the length of the petals, "which are said to equal the calyx lobes, but which in some of my otherwise perfectly 'good' specimens, exceed the calyx-lobes by as much as one third." (p. 271)

Illustrations. • Habitat. Plants growing in brackish sand dunes behind the beach. Plants consist of single stems or many stemmed clumps 10–16 cm tall. N.W.T., Cape Dalhousie. L.L. Consaul 1151 and L. J. Gillespie. CAN. • Habit. Plants common in a gully. N.W.T., Banks Island, Sachs Harbour. 29 July, 1981. J.M. Gillett 18935. CAN. • Close-up of inflorescence. Flowers with 5 green sepals, 5 white petals, 5 anthers, and superior ovaries with 4 carpels. Nunavut, Victoria Island, Cambridge Bay. Laurie Consaul 1151 and Lynn Gillespie. CAN. • Close-up of inflorescence. Flower about 5 mm across with 5 green sepals, 5 white petals, 5 anthers, (one obscured by a sepal), and a 4-lobed gynoecium with yellow-brown sessile stigmas. N.W.T., Cape Dalhousie. Laurie Consaul 1151 and Lynn Gillespie. CAN. • Arctic Island Distribution.


This publication is available on the internet (posted May 2011) and on CD-ROM (published in 2007). These versions are identical in content, except that the errata page for CD-ROM is accessible on the main index page of the web version.

Recommended citation for the web-based version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa. http://nature.ca/aaflora/data, accessed on DATE.

Recommended citation for the CD-ROM version of this publication: Aiken, S.G., Dallwitz, M.J., Consaul, L.L., McJannet, C.L., Boles, R.L., Argus, G.W., Gillett, J.M., Scott, P.J., Elven, R., LeBlanc, M.C., Gillespie, L.J., Brysting, A.K., Solstad, H., and Harris, J.G. 2007. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. [CD-ROM] NRC Research Press, National Research Council of Canada, Ottawa.

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