Synonyms: Other names: bastard toadflax Nomenclature: umbellata = in umbel (flowers) Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
General: hairless, rhizomatous perennial herb, parasitic on the roots of various plants. Stems usually clustered, 5-30 cm tall, erect, from shallow to deep-seated rhizomes.
Leaves: alternate, almost stalkless to short-stalked, mostly elliptic, 5-40 mm long and 1-10 mm broad, in our variety rather thick and fleshy, not at all rolled-edged, with the veins all obscure, covered with a bluish cast.
Flowers: perfect, 3-7 mm long, numerous in dense, terminal clusters on branches, stalkless or flower stalks up to 4 mm long. Calyx narrowly bell-shaped, the united part greenish, usually somewhat shorter than the commonly 5 white to purplish, lanceolate to almost ovate, spreading to almost erect lobes, the inner side lined with a thin to rather thick disc. True petals lacking. The 5 stamens mostly about 1 mm long, the anthers about 0.5 mm long.
Fruits: drupes, dry to somewhat fleshy, blue to purplish or brown, 4-8 mm long, round to ovate, tipped with the remains of the sepals, containing 1 seed.
In dry to moist but sandy and well-drained soil, plains to foothills, parasitic on the roots of numerous plants, often on sagebrush, in most parts of MT. Also over much of N. America n. of Mexico.
When the fruits are fully grown but still slightly green, they are sweet and oily, and make a delicious nibble. Although they are seldom available in large quantities, they were eaten as a snack by western native peoples. Too many can cause nausea. They are still edible, though not as tasty, when fully mature. The flowers were sucked by children for their sweet nectar.
Pale comandra was used medicinally by several Indian tribes. An infusion of the leaves has been used to treat lung pains and labored breathing caused by a cold or other illness. The juice of the plant has been applied externally to treat cuts and sores. A decoction of plant was used as a wash for sores and as a foot bath for corns. The plant was also used as a mouth wash for canker sores. The fresh roots were mixed with woman's milk and used as a wash for sore or inflamed eyes. The roots has been used for headaches as well.
Our specimen belong to ssp. pallida (A. DC.) Piehl.
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