Comandra umbellata (L.) Nutt.
Family: Santalaceae
bastard toadflax,  more...
[Comandra umbellata var. umbellata (L.) Nutt.]
Comandra umbellata image
Max Licher  
Plant: perennial herb or subshrub; erect, glabrous, rhizomatous, 7-50 cm tall, root-parasitic on a variety of angiosperms; STEMS striate, branching freely at base but sparingly above, 5-40(-45) cm tall; rhizomes 1-5 mm thick; rhizome cortex (in ours) bluish when fresh, often blackish when dry. Leaves: alternate, narrowly linear-lanceolate to ovate-oblong, entire, acute, firm, subsessile to short petiolate, 5-40(-60) mm long, 1-10(-16)mm wide; base acute to attenuate; tip acute to obtuse. INFLORESCENCE: terminal and subterminal clusters of 3-6-flowered cymes, each subtended by a foliaceous bract. Flowers: perfect, epigynous, 3-7 mm across; pedicels 0-4 mm long, each subtended by a bracteole; perianth rotate to turbinate or campanulate, the (3-)5(-7) lobes 3-4 mm long, white to pink or purplish, spreading to suberect, ciliolate, with long erect hairs below the middle of the inner surface which adhere to the anthers, the tube green persistent, usually shorter than the lobes; stamens 1 mm long, the anthers ovate, 0.4-0.7 mm long, opening by longitudinal slits; ovules (2-)3(-4); style filiform, 2-3 mm long; stigma capitate Fruit: ovoid to subglobose drupes, smooth to slightly roughened, 4-8(-10) mm long, yellowish or brown at maturity; exocarp thinly fleshy or succulent; endocarp thin, hard, brittle. SEEDS globose Misc: 650-2500 m (220-8200 ft) REFERENCES: Laferriere, Joseph E. 1994. Santalaceae. J. Ariz. - Nev. Acad. Sci. Volume 27(2), 240.
Perennial herb 10 - 40 cm tall Stem: branched or unbranched. Leaves: alternate or scattered, nearly stalkless or short-stalked, pale beneath, 2 - 5 cm long, oblong. Flowers: in compact, terminal clusters, greenish white to whitish, 4 mm wide, radially symmetrical, funnel-shaped. Tepals five, often connected to the anthers by tufts of hair. Petals absent. Stamens five. Fruit: a small, dry, seed-like nut.

Similar species: Comandra umbellata, the typical form of the species, is the only one found in the Chicago Region. Two subspecies, californica and pallida, occur west of the region.

Flowering: late April to early July

Habitat and ecology: Found in sandy Black Oak savannas, high dunes, prairies (most characteristically), and prairie fens. Colonial by rhizomes.

Occurence in the Chicago region: native

Notes: Although this plant manufactures much of its own food from photosynthesis, it acts as a parasite by obtaining some of its nutrients from the roots of trees and shrubs.

Etymology: Comandra derives from the Greek words kome ("hair") and andros ("a male"), and refers to the hairy attachment of the tepals to the anthers. Umbellata means "furnished with umbels."

Author: The Morton Arboretum

Stems 1-4 dm, simple or branched; lvs 2-5 cm; tepals whitish, about equaling the hypanthium; 2n=28, 52 (?). Prairies, shores, and upland woods; widespread in N. Amer., from Nf. and Que. to B.C., s. to Ga., Ark., and N.M. May-July. Most of our plants belong to var. umbellata, the characteristic phase of e. N. Amer., with lanceolate to elliptic or ovate, ┬▒evidently reticulate-veiny lvs green on both sides or somewhat paler beneath but not glaucous, the tep mostly 2-3 mm long and the fr mostly 4-6 mm thick. (C. richardsiana; C. u. var. decumbens) The well marked, more western var. pallida (A. DC.) M. E. Jones barely reaches our range, as in w. Minn. It has thicker, ┬▒glaucous, often narrower lvs without evident lateral veins, longer, relatively narrower tep mostly 3-4 mm, and larger fr mostly 6-10 mm thick. (C. pallida)

Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.

©The New York Botanical Garden. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Laferriere 1994, Kearney and Peebles 1969
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Subshrub General: Erect perennial, glabrous, rhizomatous herbs 7-50 cm tall, root-parasitic on many angiosperms; stems striate, branching freely at base, but sparingly above; rhizomes 1-5 mm thick, cortex bluish when fresh. Leaves: Alternate, narrowly linear-lanceolate to ovate-oblong, entire, acute, firm, subsessile to short petiolate, 5-40 mm long, 1-10 mm wide, base acute to attenuate, tip acute to obtuse. Flowers: Terminal and subterminal clusters of 3-6 flowered cymes, each subtended by bract; flowers perfect, 3-7 mm across, pedicels 0-4 mm long, each subtended by bracteole; perianth rotate to turbinate or campanulate, the 5 lobes 3-4 mm long, white to pink or purplish, spreading to suberect, ciliolate, with long erect hairs below middle of inner surface which adhere to anthers; tube green persistent, shorter than lobes. Fruits: Ovoid to subglobose drupes, smooth to slightly roughened 4-8 mm long. Ecology: Found on slopes, often rocky; 500-8,500 ft (152-2591 m); flowers April-August. Distribution: Most of N. Amer. in every state in the US; south to n MEX. Notes: A perennial, rhizomotous parasite distinguished by the often whitish-gray-green (glaucous) foliage, thick, succulentish leaves and globose fruits on top of which the flowers wither and remain. In our region there are two subspecies: subsp. californica and subsp. pallida. The former is distinguished by its broadly elliptic or subovate leaves and ovate to ovate-lanceolate leaves, 2-2.5 mm long, greenish above and paler bluish beneath. The latter is distinguished by its having linear to lanceolate leaves, rarely elliptic, gray green above and below, thick and succulent, essentially very glaucous leaves, and narrowly lanceolate perianth lobes 3-4 mm long. Ethnobotany: Unknown Etymology: Comandra comes from Greek kome, hair and ander, man, referring to the hairy attachment of the stamens, while umbellata refers to the way the flowers arise from a central point like an umbel. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley 2010, FSCoburn 2015
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Russ Kleinman  
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Russ Kleinman  
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Sue Carnahan  
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Max Licher  
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Russ Kleinman & Karen Blisard  
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Tony Frates  
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Russ Kleinman  
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Patrick Alexander  
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Morton Arboretum  
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Patrick Alexander  
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Patrick Alexander  
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Morton Arboretum  
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Patrick Alexander  
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Sue Carnahan  
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Jillian Cowles  
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Jillian Cowles  
Comandra umbellata image
Sue Carnahan  
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