Montana Outdoors

September 17, 2010

A grass that isn’t a grass

There is a wildflower that I have admired for years, having seen it only in photos until about a month ago when I passed by Goat Lakes on the trail to Mount Silcox in the Cube Iron – Silcox roadless area and found it growing just by the edge of Goat Creek where the creek exits the lower lake.

Nearly two thousand years ago, a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist by the name of Pedanius Dioscorides described a grass-like plant he observed growing on Mount Parnassus. Later, when the Greek description was translated, someone made a mistake and gave the “Parnassia” name to a species that is not even remotely grass-like; Parnassia fimbriata, Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus. However, a beautiful wildflower by any other name is still a beautiful wildflower (my apologies to Mr. S.) and I think this one is a real beauty.

Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus

Fringed Grass-of-Parnassus

(A little later I will post a series of photos of the whole trek to Mount Silcox.)


  1. Very lovely and otherworldly like. Love both photos. Interesting about the name of the wildflower too. 🙂


    Comment by Anna — September 18, 2010 @ 8:28 am

    • I had about given up seeing that flower, thinking it must not grow in this particular area and was very surprised to see them. I recognized them immediately. It was also a little surprising to see them this late in the summer, but they were at a higher altitude and in a quite sheltered place.


      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  2. Hi Montucky, A flower that I have never seen in life or in pictures until now. Beautiful! It sort of reminds me of a Passion Flower. Have a wonderful day!


    Comment by wildlifewatcher — September 18, 2010 @ 9:14 am

    • Yes, they make me think of the passion flower too, although these are much smaller (about the size of a nickel). Their range is just in the ten most western states (minus Arizona) and the western part of Canada.


      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  3. It is very pretty, but it is hard to believe it is grass. The leaves look similar to geranium leaves.

    I don’t change lenses enough. That is something I need to work on.


    Comment by sandy — September 18, 2010 @ 11:11 am

    • It’s “grass” in name only, Sandy. It’s really a member of the Saxifrage family.

      I’ve gotten pretty used to changing from an 18-135mm lens to a macro lens, in fact I often carry one or the other in a jacket pocket rather than in my pack. It’s the telephoto that gets neglected. It’s too big for my camera case that always hangs on the shoulder strap of my pack and too heavy to just leave on the camera and hang around my neck. So it ends up in the pack where it is practically useless for getting shots of animals. Still haven’t figured out how to handle that yet.


      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

  4. Very pretty little flowers. Do they grow in the shade or in in the sun? I can’t tell if that is moss or grass in the background.


    Comment by kateri — September 18, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

    • They like wet areas. These were growing right beside a stream. These were in an area that got just a little sun each day, the rest of the time they were in pretty deep shade. I doubt that they would take much full sun.

      The background is actually a combination of grass and moss. They were even overhung just a bit by some fairly low growing shrubbery, and a few were back under the trees where they would only get reflected sunlight.


      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

      • They remind me of something that would like to grow in the dark damp hemlock woods I loved to play in when I was little. All kinds of neat plants grew there.


        Comment by kateri — September 18, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

        • That sounds like a place they would grow. I wonder why they are only a west coat plant.


          Comment by montucky — September 18, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  5. They’re very intricate looking. Pretty, glad you finally came upon them.


    Comment by Candace — September 18, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  6. That’s a fabulous looking flower and plant. What a beauty!


    Comment by Val Erde — September 18, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

    • I wish I could have caught the entire setting there. Their surroundings made them look even more beautiful.


      Comment by montucky — September 18, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  7. Such cool little flowers/grasses….


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — September 19, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  8. I dig the different layers of detail in that bloom, well captured! As for the telephoto dilema, sounds like you just need to carry around a second body!


    Comment by Daveabirding — September 20, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    • I’ve thought of that, but it’s too much more weight: I carry too much already.


      Comment by montucky — September 20, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

  9. So pretty flower. I am surprised how beautiful flowers there are in Your country.

    According to the pages of Helsinki University, this flower is not found here.

    Thank You again showing this.


    Comment by sartenada — September 23, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

    • I have read that this flower is common in western Canada and parts of the western United States, but these were the first that I’ve seen. They seem to have a rather limited range, just the westernmost side of north America.


      Comment by montucky — September 23, 2010 @ 11:45 pm

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