Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This herbaceous plant is a monocarpic perennial. It persists as a rosette of 3-30 basal leaves for 5-15 years (or more), finally bolting as a flowering plant that becomes 3-8' tall for a single season, and then dying. The basal leaves are up to 14" long and 4" across; they are oblong-elliptic to broadly oblong-elliptic in shape and smooth along their margins. The upper surfaces of the basal leaves are medium green and glabrous with prominent central veins; they are deciduous. The central stem of a flowering plant is light green to purple, glabrous, terete (circular in cross-section), rather stout, and unbranched. Along its entire length, there are whorls of 4-5 leaves (rarely more) that become gradually smaller in size as they ascend the central stem. Individual whorled leaves are 3-12" long and ¾-3" across; they are oblong-elliptic, oblong-lanceolate, or oblong-oblanceolate in shape with smooth margins. The upper surfaces of these leaves are dark green and glabrous with prominent central veins; they are also deciduous. The central stem terminates in a panicle of flowers up to 2' long (typically 50-100 flowers per panicle). This panicle is narrowly pyramidal in shape with spreading to ascending lateral branches. The terminal branches produce clusters of 2-6 flowers each on pedicels ¾-2" long. Each flower is ¾-1¼" across, consisting of a shallow corolla with 4-5 spreading petaloid lobes, a shallow calyx with 4-5 spreading lobes, 4-5 stamens, and a superior ovary with a single style. Usually, the flowers are divided into 4 parts, rather than 5. The corolla lobes are oblong-lanceolate or oblong-elliptic in shape; they are mostly greenish white with purple specks or streaks, although their bases may be tinted pale yellow or pale pink. Toward the middle of each corolla lobe, there is a conspicuous nectar pad that is heavily fringed. The bases of these nectar pads are surrounded by rings of green. The calyx and its lobes are medium green and glabrous; individual lobes are linear-lanceolate and up to ½" long. The superior ovary is light green. The peduncle, lateral branches, and pedicels of the inflorescence are light green to purple, glabrous, and terete. At locations where there are divergent branches within the inflorescence, there are pairs of leafy bracts about 1-3" long that are linear-lanceolate or linear-oblong in shape. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer, lasting about 3 weeks. The flowers within a panicle bloom at about the same time. Individual plants in a colony have a tendency to bloom synchronically (during the same year at the same time), which facilitates cross-pollination of the flowers. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by ovoid seed capsules about ½-¾" in length; these capsules are strongly beaked from the persistent styles. At maturity, these capsules become dark brown and split open to release their seeds. Each capsule contains 4-14 dark brown seeds that are crescent-shaped and winged. The root system consists of a fleshy taproot.
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native American Columbo is occasional in the southern half of Illinois, rare (or possibly extirpated) in NE Illinois, and absent from the rest of the state (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies along the NW range limit of this species. Habitats include upland savannas, upland woodlands, wooded slopes, limestone and sandstone glades, woodland openings, and small meadows in upland wooded areas. In areas near southern Lake Michigan, this plant occurs in similar habitats with calcareous sand. American Columbo is often associated with upland oak trees and such ferns as Asplenium platyneuron (Ebony Spleenwort) and Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern). It is found in higher quality natural areas.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Frasera caroliniensis Walter:
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Swertia caroliniensis (Walter) Kuntze:
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Global Range: This plant ranges from Michigan, southern Ontario, and western New York southward to South Carolina and northern Georgia, and westward Illinois, Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Leaves simple, whorled on the stem. Corolla rotate, the small tube much shorter than its lobes or the calyx lobes. Flowers yellow-greenish. Style well developed. Corolla lobes bearing a large fringed gland.

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native American Columbo is occasional in the southern half of Illinois, rare (or possibly extirpated) in NE Illinois, and absent from the rest of the state (see Distribution Map). Illinois lies along the NW range limit of this species. Habitats include upland savannas, upland woodlands, wooded slopes, limestone and sandstone glades, woodland openings, and small meadows in upland wooded areas. In areas near southern Lake Michigan, this plant occurs in similar habitats with calcareous sand. American Columbo is often associated with upland oak trees and such ferns as Asplenium platyneuron (Ebony Spleenwort) and Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern). It is found in higher quality natural areas.
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Comments: Upland deciduous forest, particularly near the margins and in clearings.

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of American Columbo in Illinois

Frasera caroliniensis (American Columbo)
(Short-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen, other insects suck nectar; short-tongued bees and skippers are non-pollinating; all observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera fq sn; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus griseocallis sn fq, Bombus pensylvanica sn; Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora abrupta sn fq

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Lasioglossum coriaceus sn cp np

Wasps
Vespidae: Polistes fuscata sn

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Thorybes pylades sn np

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Faunal Associations

The flowers are cross-pollinated primarily by such long-tongued bees as honeybees, bumblebees, and Anthophorine bees (Anthophora spp.); these insects obtain mostly nectar from the flowers. Aside from these pollinators, there are few records of floral-faunal relationships for American Columbo. The basal leaves of more western species in the same genus, sometimes referred to as 'Elkweed,' are eaten occasionally by elk and other hoofed mammalian herbivores. However, evidence of such browsing hasn't been observed by the author for the more eastern American Columbo.
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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Persistence: PERENNIAL, Long-lived, DECIDUOUS

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Reproduction

n=39 Plants die after flowering and fruiting.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Frasera caroliniensis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Threats

Comments: Habitat loss and fragmentation may be impacting some populations and intensive forest management could eliminate the species (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG

Comments: Root used as an emetic and cathartic or as tonic.

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Cultivation

The preference is full sun to light shade, mesic to dry-mesic conditions, and calcareous soil that is loamy, rocky, or sandy. The seeds require a dormant period with cool moist stratification in order to germinate. Because this plant persists as a rosette of basal leaves for several years, it is slow to develop, and its seeds are not often available commercially. Problems with disease organisms or insect pests rarely occur.
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Wikipedia

Frasera caroliniensis

Frasera caroliniensis, commonly known as American columbo or yellow gentian, is a herbaceous perennial of the gentian family Gentianaceae found in the deciduous forest of Southern Ontario and throughout the eastern and southeastern United States.[1] It was previously known as Swertia caroliniensis.

Description[edit]

American columbo is a monocarpic perennial, meaning it flowers once after multiple seasons, and then dies. When it reaches the flowering stage, the leaves develop in whorls on an elongated stem, and approximately 50 to 100 flowers will develop a panicle, with the fruits maturing soon after. The flowers that it produces are folious (tall and "spike"-like), green to yellow in colour with purple speckles. It is a perfect and complete flower, with four stamens and two carpels.[2] The entire plant can reach heights over 2 metres (7 ft). Though it is monocarpic, the plant may live for up to 30 years before flowering.[1]

The roots of F. caroliniensis are a taproot system, with a thick and fleshy taproot, and in some Frasera species, this may be modified into a branched rhizome. The leaves of F. caroliensis are carried on stalks ("petiolate") and have a thick, waxy texture.[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

American columbo lives in dry upland areas, rocky woods and areas with calcareous soil, though it is not limited by soil texture or other soil characteristics.[1] The species ranges from deciduous forest regions in southern Ontario, through southern Michigan, northern Indiana, southern Illinois, southern Missouri, southeast Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, and northern Louisiana.[3]

Human importance[edit]

Medicinal uses for American columbo have mostly been rebutted. However, it was a common belief in the early 19th century that the root of the plant might be externally used for gangrene. It was also claimed to be useful in treating jaundice, scurvy, gout and rabies.[2]

Ecology[edit]

Several tree species are associated with F. caroliniensis, such as sweet-gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and pignut hickory (Carya glabra). Even more vines and understory trees are associated with this species, such as eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). Herbs associated with the species include the prostrate ticktrefoil (Desmodium rotundifolium), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron). The canopy of trees that are associated with this species are important for its survival, though if the canopy becomes too dense the plant may not flower as well.[1] When the plants do flower, they contain large nectaries, which aid in pollination.[4]

Conservation[edit]

This species is endangered in Ontario and nationally in Canada. The most extreme limiting factor for this species is invasive plants that are heavily infesting its habitat.[5] This may be attributed to its long life cycle, which would not allow the species to adapt to rapid changes in environment, and therefore not survive long enough to disperse its seeds. Also this species has a “seed dormancy” (prevention of germination until optimal environmental conditions are present), that can only be broken in typical spring conditions. Furthermore deforestation can be extremely destructive to the plants, as they rely on the canopy provided from the trees. Conservation practices to manage these issues include leaving surrounding trees within 4 square metres (43 sq ft), stimulating growth by cutting a small opening in the canopy, and draining overly flooded areas to provide clay-like soil.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Horn, N. C. 1997. An ecological study of Frasera caroliniensis. Castanea, journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society. 62(3): 185-193.
  2. ^ a b c Card, H.H. 1931. A revision of Genus Frasera. Annals of Missouri Botanical Garden. 18(2): 245-282. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2394089
  3. ^ a b Threadgill, F. P., Baskin, M. T., Baskin, C. C. 1979. Geographical Ecology of Frasera caroliniensis. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 106(3): 185-188.
  4. ^ Threadgill, F. P., Baskin, M. T., Baskin, C. C. 1981. The ecological life cycle of Frasera caroliniensis, a long-lived monocarpic perennial. American Midland Naturalist. 105(2): 277-289.
  5. ^ COSEWIC status report
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