Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Bastard Toadflax - Comandra umbellata   (L.) NuttallOnly member of Comandra in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Santalales » Family Comandraceae
Author(L.) Nuttall
DistributionEssentially throughout the central and eastern Piedmont and parts of the upper and northern Coastal Plain, including the Sandhills. Scattered in the southern Mountains. Rare to absent in the northern Mountains and most of the Piedmont foothills. Also scarce to absent in the central and southeastern Coastal Plain.

This is a very widespread species from coast to coast. It occurs over much of Canada as well. It ranges south to central SC, GA, and northern TX, being absent only from FL and LA.
AbundanceDespite records for most of the central counties in the state, and scattered over much of the remainder, the species is uncommon in the eastern half of the Piedmont and northern Coastal Plain. It is rare to very uncommon elsewhere. It seems to have declined considerably in recent years, for uncertain reasons, but possibly to fire suppression (?).
HabitatThis species occurs primarily in dry and fairly open woods and borders, especially along the margins of dry oak or mixed forests. It strongly favors acidic soils, and it is most numerous where an abundance of blueberry (Vaccinium) and/or huckleberry (Gaylussacia) shrubs also grow. It is most often seen in partial shade and is scarce in deep forest interiors.
PhenologyBlooms from April to early June; fruits mainly in July.
IdentificationThis is a rather colonial herbaceous species that has only a few short branches near the top of the stem, which grows to about 9-12 inches high. The leaves are alternate and entire, and grow to an average of 1-inch long. The leaves tend to be slightly glaucous such that the plants have a soft, pale green color. It can be easily overlooked when not in bloom, as perhaps a young goldenrod or other composite that will get taller and bloom later in summer. But, each plant is topped by several clusters of small white, 4- or 5-petaled flowers that make the plant easy to spot and identify in April or May. Seldom are just one or two plants seen; it usually occurs in dense stands of 50 or more plants in a small area. It is most easily found growing along the edge of a dry, acidic forest – in partial sun.
Taxonomic CommentsNone at the species level, but some references name varieties. Those that do list the nominate variety C. umbellata var. umbellata in our area.

Other Common Name(s)Umbellate Bastard Toadflax, Common Comandra
State RankS3 [S4]
Global RankG5
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US Status
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B.A. SorriePiedmont, roadside edge of woods, Wadsworth Road, early May 2015. MoorePhoto_natural
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