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 palustris L.

English: Grass-of-parnassus, marsh grass-of-parnassus,

French: Parnassie des marais.

Saxifragaceae, Saxifrage family.

Published in Sp. Pl. 273. 1753.

Type: Selected by Hultgård, Symb. Bot. Upsal. 28, 1: 109–110. 1987. Lectotype: UPS. Burser Herbarium XVII.91.

Synonymy. Parnassia obtusiflora Rupr., Fl. Samojed. Cisural. 23. 1846..

Parnassia palustris L. subsp. obtusiflora (Rupr.) D.A. Webb, Feddes Repert. 64: 25. 1961.

Parnassia palustris L. var. neogaea Fernald, Rhodora 39: 311. 1937.

Parnassia palustris L. subsp. neogaea (Fernald) Hultén, Lunds Univ. Årsskr., n. f., avd. 2, 41, 1: 956. 1945.

Vegetative morphology. Plants 10–20(–35) cm high; perennial herbs; caespitose. Only fibrous roots present. Ground level or underground stems absent (or slightly vertical, rarely collected). Caudex present (short and small). Aerial stems erect. Leaves mainly basal; alternate; dying annually and non-persistent. Petioles present (basal leaves), or absent (flowering stem leaves); (0–)15–50(–100) mm long; glabrous. Leaf blade bases cordate, or rounded. Blades 4–25(–30) mm long, 8–20 mm wide, ovate, flat, veins palmate. Blade adaxial surface glabrous. Blade abaxial surface glabrous. Hydathodes absent (no small surface glands present). Blade apices acute (flowering stem leaf), or obtuse.

Reproductive morphology. Flowering stems with leaves (usually a single sessile leaf attached in the lower half of the flowering stem). Flowers solitary. Flowers large. Sepals conventional; 5; free; 2–2.5(–3) mm long; 4–6 mm wide; green; herbaceous. Calyx glabrous. Petals conventional; free; longer than the calyx; 5; white (with conspicuous veins); obovate; unlobed; (8–)9–11(–12) mm long; (8–)9–11(–14) mm wide. Stamens present, or absent (staminoidea numerous, prominent); 5 (ripening in sequence). Nectaries present. Ovary superior; carpels 4; syncarpous. Ovaries glabrous. Styles absent. Placentation axile. Ovules per ovary 150–300. Fruit with calyx persisting; dry; a capsule; ovoid; yellowish, or green at maturity; (6–)8–10 mm long; (4–)6–8 mm wide; dehiscent; splitting to the base into separate segments. Seeds 150–300; 0.7–0.8 mm long; brown, or yellowish; surfaces smooth (with fine reticulate veins).

Chromosome information. 2n = 18, 27, 36, and 54.

(2n)(2x) = 18. Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1940, northern Russia, 1960); Löve and Löve (1951, northern Europe); Löve (1954b); Sokolovskaya (1958, 1962, 1963, 1965); Sorsa (1963b, Finland); Hedberg and Hedberg (1964, Sweden); Löve and Ritchie (1966, central Canada, 'neogaea'); Zhukova (1966, 1969, northeastern Asia), Hedberg (1967, northern Canada, 'neogaea'); Knaben and Engelskjøn (1967, Norway); Johnson and Packer (1968, northwestern Alaska); Mulligan (1969, northern Alaska); Packer and McPherson (1974, northern Alaska); Zhukova, et al. (1977, northeastern Asia); Engelskjøn (1979, Norway); Löve and Löve (1982, central Canada. 'neogaea'); Yurtsev and Zhukova (1982, northern Siberia); Zhukova (1982, northeastern Asia); Gornal (1985, northwestern Europe); Funamoto (1986a, Japan, 'palustris' and 'tenuis'); Hultgård (1987, Scandinavia); Jalas et al. (1999) listed many additional recent counts; Lövkvist and Hultgård (1999, Sweden, six counts);

(2n) (3x) = 27. Erlandsson (1942a, Sweden); Gadella and Kliphuis (1968, western Europe); Lövkvist and Hultgård (1999, Sweden, one count in an otherwise 2n = 18 population);

(2n) (4x) = 36. Sokolovskaya and Strelkova (1940, 1941, northern Russia, Kolguev; 1960, 'obtusiflora'); Löve and Löve (1951, 1956, Iceland; 1982a, Arctic Canada, 'obtusiflora'); Löve (1954b, northern Europe, 'obtusiflora'); Sokolovskaya (1958, 1962, northern Russia, 'obtusiflora'); Knaben and Engelskjøn (1967, Norway); Laane (1967, Norway); Krogulevich (1976a, northern Siberia); Engelskjøn (1979; Norway); Gornal (1985, northwestern Europe); Hultgård (1987, Scandinavia). Jalas et al. (1999) listed some additional recent counts;

(2n) (6x) = 54. Erlandsson (1942a, Sweden); Gornall and Wentworth (1993, western Europe).

Ploidy levels recorded 2x, 3x, 4x, and 6x.

Taxon as an environmental indicator. Discovery of this species in the Arctic Archipelago could indicate climatic warming, as it occurs near Banks Island in the Anderson River delta, but has not yet been recorded in the archipelago. The northernmost record is N.W.T., Anderson River Delta, 69°42'N (Canada).

Ecology and habitat. Substrates: imperfectly drained moist areas, dry, moderately well-drained areas; gravel, sand; with low organic content; calcareous. Similar to Parnassia kotzebuei but the flowers are much larger, with broader and longer petals and the cauline leaf inserted near the middle of the stem.

North American distribution. Labrador, Newfoundland. Low Arctic (close to the Arctic Archipelago, opposite Baffin and Victoria Islands).

General notes. Polunin (1940), Porsild (1957, 1964), and Porsild and Cody (1980) considered this a Low Arctic species which occurs abundantly near the Arctic Archipelago. It should be looked for in the archipelago.

Elven et al. (2003) debated whether to split or to lump in this taxon, noting that Löve and Löve (1975) split P. palustris s.l. on two species, the diploid P. palustris s.s. and the tetraploid P. obtusiflora. The diploid was further split into a subsp. palustris from Europe and Siberia to Alaska and a subsp. neogaea in Alaska and Canada. Subspecies obtusiflora was considered an 'Old World' species from northwestern Europe to Russian Far East. This treatment does not align very well with morphological differences. In northern Europe, the diploids (P. palustris subsp. palustris sensu Löve and type) are southern lowland plants that probably don't reach the Arctic here; the tetraploids (P. obtusiflora sensu Löve) occur both in the lowlands, mountains, and to the north. The small-grown plants with an 'obtusiflora' morphology here are tetraploid but so are also a lot of the large-grown and large-flowered plants with a 'palustris' morphology. The North American 'neogaea' plants are diploid, according to Löve and Löve (1975). A similar morphological variation is found in Alaskan plants as in northern European ones, but diploid numbers are counted both in small-grown and small-flowered arctic-alpine and large-flowered boreal plants.

Taraskina, in Yurtsev (1984), related the 'obtusiflora' name to subsp. palustris, whereas a northern Fennoscandian var. tenuis Wahlenb. (1912), Fl. Lapp. 74, was included in subsp. neogaea. This is also difficult to reconcile with morphological and cytological data.

Hultén and Fries (1986) recognised two subspecies of P. palustris: a mainly Eurasian subsp. palustris that reached westernmost Alaska, and a nearly circumpolar subsp. neogaea from Iceland throughout Eurasia and North America to Labrador. They included the 'obtusiflora' entity in their subsp. neogaea.

The species is here retained in a collective sense. In 2005, Elven (personal communication, 2005) noted in the Panarctic Flora checklist that "A subdivision of this species has therefore been proposed several times, and in several ways, but is not applied for the Checklist as the proposals are mutually incompatible. This is the view of Hultgård (1987) and Borgen and Hultgård (2003), who has studied the complex extensively, and is supported by other biosystematic studies from Erlandsson (1942a) to Gornall and Wentworth (1993). In northern Europe, the chromosome ploidy differences and parts of the (small) morphological diversity are documented as results of many independent, recurrent autopolyploidisations in different regions (Borgen and Hultgård 2003)."

Illustrations. • Habitat: Churchill. Plants growing between the markers in dry gravel. Manitoba, Churchill, Beech Cove. Aiken and Brysting 01–033. CAN. • Close-up of plants. Plants growing between the markers in dry gravel. Manitoba, Churchill, Beech Cove. Aiken and Brysting 01–033. CAN. • Close-up of sequential flowering. Left to right, top to bottom. Anthers lying close to stigma; flower with two anthers expanded; flower with ripening stigma; stigma with four lobes; post-anthesis flower; flower with ripening stigmas.


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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