Stems: bearing one clasping ovate leaf. Leaves: ovate, petioled, obtuse at the apex, cordate at the base. Flowers: elliptic, few-veined; petals five; stamens numerous, in clusters at the base of each petal.
Why "Grass," and why "of Parnassus"? Assuredly the traveller will be surprised when he finds what kind of flower bears this exceedingly unsuitable name, for the Grass of Parnassus is like a delicate white buttercup, the veins in its petals being strongly marked, and numerous stamens growing at the base of every blade. Each stalk is clasped by a single little round leaf, and a mass of smooth glossy foliage grows close to the ground. These basal leaves are much curled up, and in low-lying marshes and other wet places you will find them in profusion during the month of July. Perhaps it was the velvety petals of the Grass of Parnassus that caused Emerson to ask: "Why Nature loves the number five, And why the star-form she repeats?"
For in this particular mountain wild flower the five petals and the star-form are both especially conspicuous.
Parnassia finibriata, or Fringed Grass of Parnassus, is also very common in moist places among the mountains. It closely resembles the plant already described, but may be clearly distinguished from it, because the petals are conspicuously fringed towards the base and have fine marginal hairs.
Parnassia parviflora, or Small Grass of Parnassus, resembles the mountain species, but has smaller flowers, and may always be distinguished by the fact that the basal leaves are oval, and not heart-shaped, but narrowed into a slender stalk.
Parnassia Kotzebuei, or Alpine Grass of Parnassus, is a tiny species, only a few inches high, and is found at great . altitudes.