Parnassia: a tale of staminodes

Parnassia fimbriata at Cypress Provincial Park, West Vancouver,

Parnassia fimbriata at Cypress Provincial Park, West Vancouver, BC, Canada

High in the subalpine, you can still find Parnassia fimbriata blooming. Despite the common name — fringed grass of Parnassus — it is not a grass, nor even a monocot. (We could go on more, but that’s a whole other post.)
Besides being an irresistibly gorgeous bloom, this native wildflower is interesting in another way — the clusters of shiny yellow structures in the corolla are called staminodes.
Staminodes are essentially sterile stamens (male bits). In some species they can produce nectar — which attracts pollinators. In other species, just their physical appearance can help attract pollinators.
We weren’t able to find information about the role that staminodes might play in the relationship between Parnassia fimbriata and its pollinators (flies, beetles, bees), but thought it was pretty interesting.
Also, staminodia are used as key characteristics is helping to distinguish between species of Parnassia. In BC, there are four species known to exist: P. fimbriata, P. kotzebuei, P. palustris and P. parviflora.

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