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Common Herb Species of the Northwest Forest

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GRAMINOIDS

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Terminology | Pictorial

   
Geocaulon lividum
Northern Comandra
"Northern Bastard Toadflax"

Santalaceae (Sandalwood Family)

Northern Comandra Description

General - an erect, perennial, from creeping, thread-like, reddish rhizomes; stems usually unbranched, 10 - 25 cm tall.

Leaves - alternate, thin, oval, 1 - 3 cm long, blunt-tipped, bright green, frequently yellow streaked.

Flowers - in slender-stalked, 2 to 4 flowered clusters from leaf axils; usually centre flower female and outer flowers male; petal-like sepals 1 - 1.5 mm long, greenish purple, inconspicuous.; appearing mid-summer.

Fruit - scarlet to fluorescent orange, berry-like drupes, juicy, 5 - 8 mm across; edibility questionable, not recommended; ripening in late-summer.

Habitat

Moist woods; widespread across boreal forest, north and west to interior Alaska; often associated with Feather Moss Brachythecium.

Notes

Also called Comandra livida. Although the fruit of Northern Comandra is edible, it is not very palatable and is not usually used as food. Northern Comandra is parasitic, taking nutrients from the roots of a variety of other plants, including bearberry and asters. Its thin, spreading underground stems reach out to nearby plants, and tiny, sucker-like organs on the rootlets attach themselves to the roots of other plants. In this way, Northern Comandra can supplement the food it produces with additional nutrients from its neighbours. The yellow streaking often seen on the leaves is caused by the lodgepole pine's Comandra blister rust, of which Northern Comandra is the alternate host. The Chipewyan considered the fruits inedible, but a few were swallowed once a year to relieve chronic chest problems (perhaps tuberculosis). The Cree boiled the leaves and bark to make a medicinal tea to induce vomiting and purge the system. They also used the chewed stems and leaves as a poultice on wounds.


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