Mythology Makes the Search for Grass of Parnassus More Fun – A Photo Essay

Mount Parnassus is a mountain of limestone in central Greece that towers above Delphi, north of the Gulf of Corinth, and offers scenic views of the surrounding olive groves and countryside. Mount Parnassus is named after Parnassos, the son of the nymph Kleodora and the man Kleopompus.

According to Greek mythology, this mountain was sacred to Dionysus and the Dionysian mysteries; it was also sacred to Apollo and the Corycian nymphs, and it was the home of the Muses. The mountain was also favored by the Dorians. As the home of the Muses, Parnassus became known as the home of poetry, music, and learning.

It is suggested that the name derives from parnassus, the possessive adjective of the Luwian word parna meaning house, or specifically temple. So the name effectively means the mountain of the house of the gods.

So that would make Grass of Parnassus the lawn at the house of the mythological gods. Imagine walking barefoot through acres of these stunning white and green wildflowers.

Regardless of whether any of this is true or just myth, it’s fun to consider. What is true is that the significant biodiversity, both in flora and in fauna, led authorities to the establishment of the National Park of Parnassus in 1938. The slopes of Mount Parnassus are composed of two ski sections, Kellaria and Fterolakka, which together make up the largest ski center in Greece.

Grass of Parnassus, also known as bog stars, occur in arctic and alpine habitats, as well as in dune systems and fens, swamps, wet meadows, open seepage areas, and moist woods. In the Southern Appalachians they tend to be found in the high country, above at least 5,000 feet.

I’ve encountered these rare late summer blooms a couple of places: high on Mt. LeConte in the Smokies, and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The North Carolina variety is Parnassia caroliniana, and is considered imperiled. Therefore I’m somewhat coy about exact locations. Poachers and all. If you study my photos below you can get some hints.

Feel free to leave your comments below the gallery.



This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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