Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

This is one of the few herbaceous plants of the prairie that produces edible fruits, although they are thin-fleshed and small in size. With age, the flesh of these fruits becomes dry. Because Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata) is the only member of its genus that occurs in Illinois, it is relatively distinct in appearance and easy to identify. Some small-flowered chickweeds (Stellaria spp., Cerastium spp.) superficially resemble Bastard Toadflax, but they can be distinguished by the notched petals of their flowers and their foliage is often pubescent. A prairie species, Flowering Spurge (Euphorbia corolla), has superficially similar leafy stems while it is still young, but this species becomes taller later in the year and it also blooms later. While the foliage of Bastard Toadflax has clear sap, the foliage of Flowering Spurge has milky sap, like many other spurges (Euphorbia spp.). Return
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This herbaceous perennial plant is up to 1' tall; its leafy stems are either unbranched or sparingly branched. The stems are light green or light reddish green, terete, and glabrous. Abundant alternate leaves occur along the entire length of each stem. These leaves are ¾–1½" long, ¼–½" across, and either sessile or short-petiolate; they are oblong-elliptic to broadly oblong-elliptic in shape and their margins are entire (toothless). The upper leaf surface is grayish green and glabrous, while the lower leaf surface is slightly more pale and glabrous. Leaf venation is pinnate. Some of the stems terminate in flat-topped clusters of white flowers spanning ¾–1½" across. Sometimes these flowers are tinted green or pink. Each flower is about ¼" across, consisting of a shallow bell-shaped corolla with 5 sepals (rarely 4), 5 short stamens, and an inferior ovary with a single short style. The sepals are lanceolate in shape with spreading tips when a flower is fully open. The central stalk, branches, and pedicels of each inflorescence are light green to light reddish green, terete, and glabrous. Individual pedicels are up to ¼" long. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer, lasting about 1 month for a colony of plants. Usually, relatively few flowers are in bloom at the same time in each inflorescence. There is no noticeable floral scent. Afterwards, the flowers are replaced by small oily drupes spanning about ¼" across. Each thin-fleshed drupe contains a single large seed that is globoid in shape. The drupes gradually change color from green to brown, and they are said to have a sweet taste while still immature. The root system is fibrous and long-rhizomatous. Colonies of clonal plants are often produced by the thick woody rhizomes. The fibrous roots send out underground suckers (haustoria) that parasitize other plants. As a result, Bastard Toadflax is hemiparasitic. Cultivation
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Bastard Toadflax occurs occasionally in most areas of Illinois, but it is less common in the southern section of the state (see Distribution Map). This plant can be locally abundant at some high quality sites. Habitats include black soil prairies, sand prairies, hill prairies, rocky open woodlands, thinly wooded ridges, sandy savannas, and barren areas with scrubby vegetation. Bastard Toadflax is usually found in higher quality natural areas with other native plants. Populations of this plant tend to increase when they are exposed to occasional wildfires or light to moderate grazing. Faunal Associations
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Bastard Toadflax occurs occasionally in most areas of Illinois, but it is less common in the southern section of the state (see Distribution Map). This plant can be locally abundant at some high quality sites. Habitats include black soil prairies, sand prairies, hill prairies, rocky open woodlands, thinly wooded ridges, sandy savannas, and barren areas with scrubby vegetation. Bastard Toadflax is usually found in higher quality natural areas with other native plants. Populations of this plant tend to increase when they are exposed to occasional wildfires or light to moderate grazing. Faunal Associations
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Bastard Toadflax in Illinois

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Comandra umbellata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 6
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Wikipedia

Comandra

Comandra is a monotypic genus[1] containing the single species Comandra umbellata. Its common names include bastard toadflax, umbellate bastard toadflax, and common comandra.[2] The plant has a disjunct distribution;[1] its four subspecies occur in North America and the Mediterranean.[3]

Description[edit]

Comandra is a perennial herb growing about 8 to 34 cm tall. The leaves are up to 3.3 cm long and are alternately arranged. The flowers lack petals, but have five greenish-white sepals. The flowers are insect-pollinated. The fruit is a drupe.[4]

Subspecies include:[5]

  • C. u. ssp. californica – California bastard toadflax
  • C. u. ssp. pallida – pale bastard toadflax, pine bastard toadflax
  • C. u. ssp. umbellata

C. umbellata is semiparasitic; it is not holoparasitic as it obtains some nutrition through photosynthesis.[6] It has a wide host range, parasitizing over 200 known plant species.[4] These include Aster, Antennaria, Solidago, Rosa, Rubus, Fragaria, Vaccinium, Acer, Betula, Populus, Carex, and some grasses.[6]

Uses[edit]

A decoction of the plant parts was made by the Navajo people for narcotic and other medicinal usage. In times of food shortage, the berries were used by Native Americans as a food source,[7] and though small, they have a sweet taste.[8]

Pathogens[edit]

C. umbellata is the alternate host for the comandra blister rust (Cronartium comandrae), a rust fungus that affects pine species in North America. Comandra blister rust can cause tree losses of up to 7% in some regions where it is common.[9]

When C. umbellata is infected by the rust aeciospores from the pine host, yellow, blister-like spots bearing urediniospores appear on the leaves of the plant within 20 days. In the following weeks, teliospores develop on brown, hairlike telia that germinate to produce basidiospores, the fungal life stage capable of infecting pines.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Der, J. P. and D. L. Nickrent. (2008). A molecular phylogeny of Santalaceae (Santalales). Systematic Botany 33(1), 107-16.
  2. ^ Comandra umbellata. NatureServe. 2012.
  3. ^ Mabberley, D. J. (2000). The Plant Book: A Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants. New York: Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^ a b Comandra umbellata. Arches National Park, Utah. United States National Park Service.
  5. ^ Comandra umbellata. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
  6. ^ a b Moss, E. H. (1926). "Parasitism in the genus Comandra". New Phytologist 25 (4): 264–276. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.1926.tb06695.x. 
  7. ^ Betty B. Derig and Margaret C. Fuller (2001). Wild Berries of the West. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company. p. 159. ISBN 0-87842-433-4. 
  8. ^ "Bastard Toadflax (Comandra umbellata)". Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  9. ^ Woods, A. J. et al. (2000). "Predicted impacts of hard pine stem rusts on lodgepole pine dominated stands in central British Columbia". Canadian Journal of Forest Research 30 (3): 476–481. doi:10.1139/cjfr-30-3-476. 
  10. ^ Johnson, D. W. (1986). "Comandra Blister Rust". Forest Insect & Disease Leaflet 62. 
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