Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This is a native perennial plant up to 1' tall, which may be branched or unbranched. The stems are light green and smooth. The alternate leaves are up to 2" long and ¾" across. They are light green, hairless, and have smooth margins. Their shape may be oval or oblong, and they have short petioles or are sessile. Some of the stems terminate in a rather flattened cluster of a dozen or more small white flowers. Each shallow, tube-shaped flower is about ¼" across, and has 5 sepals that flare outward. The sepals are usually white, but may have light green or rose accents, particularly when the flower is still unopened. In the center, there are several yellow stamens. There is no noticeable scent. The blooming period occurs during the late spring or early summer and lasts about a month. Later, small oily fruits develop that are each about ¼" across, containing a single globular seed. They change in color from green to brown, and are said to have a sweet taste while still immature. The root system is fibrous, and it sends out slender underground suckers that parasitize other plants. Consequently, Bastard Toadflax is semi-parasitic. Deep horizontal rhizomes are also produced, causing the vegetative spread of this plant.
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Comments

This is one of the few herbaceous plants of the prairie that produces edible fruit, although they are small-sized. Return
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Distribution

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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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Bastard Toadflax is widely distributed, but is less common in Southern Illinois. Sometimes, large populations of this plant occur locally at high quality sites. Habitats include mesic to dry black soil prairies, hill prairies, rocky open woodlands, lightly wooded ridges, and barrens with small stunted trees. Bastard Toadflax can parasitize a large variety of plant species, including some woody shrubs and trees.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Comandra umbellata (L.) Nutt.:
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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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Bastard Toadflax is widely distributed, but is less common in Southern Illinois. Sometimes, large populations of this plant occur locally at high quality sites. Habitats include mesic to dry black soil prairies, hill prairies, rocky open woodlands, lightly wooded ridges, and barrens with small stunted trees. Bastard Toadflax can parasitize a large variety of plant species, including some woody shrubs and trees.
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Bastard Toadflax in Illinois

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Faunal Associations

The most important visitors to the flowers are flies, including Soldier flies, Syrphid flies, Flesh flies, Blow flies, Muscid flies, and Anthomyiid flies. Various bees, butterflies, and beetles visit the flowers occasionally. All of these insects usually seek nectar. The small fruit is probably eaten by small mammals (e.g., mice), by which means the seeds are distributed.
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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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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full or partial sun, and average to dry conditions. This plant normally occurs in soil that is either loamy or rocky. It doesn't appear to be affected significantly by foliar disease. There is a preference for an acid pH.
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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 an obligate parasite because it obtains 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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