A large family, almost all herbs, living usually in temperate regions. They have no very peculiar characteristics and resemble the Rose Family, but sometimes their leaves are opposite, usually they have no stipules and have fewer stamens than Roses, not more than twice as many as the sepals, and usually the pistils, from two to five in number, with distinct styles, are united to form a compound ovary, wiich is superior or partly inferior; sepals usually five; patals four, five, or rarely none, alternate with the sepals; petals and stamens borne on the calyx; fruit a dry pod or berry, containing numerous seeds. The Latin name means "rock breaker," as many grow among rocks.

There are several kinds of Parnassia, of north temperate and arctic regions; smooth perennials; leaves toothless, almost all from the root; flowers single; sepals five; petals five, each with a cluster of sterile filaments, tipped with glands, at the base; fertile stamens five, alternate with the petals; ovary superior, or partly inferior, with a very short style, or none, usually with four stigmas; fruit a capsule, containing numerous winged seeds. These plants were called Grass of Parnassus by Dioscorides, but are not grasslike. They resemble the other members of this family so little that they have been made into a separate family by some botanists.