bastard toadflax

(Comandra umbellata ssp. umbellata)

Conservation Status
bastard toadflax (ssp. umbellata)
Photo by Luciearl
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

UPL - Obligate upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Bastard toadflax is a 4 to 12 tall, erect, often branched, leafy, perennial herb that rises from fibrous roots and horizontal rhizomes. It often forms colonies and a single clone can cover a large area. It is semi-parasitic, deriving water and nutrition from the roots of other plants, but also getting nutrition from photosynthesis. Hosts for this parasite includes herbs such as Aster, Antennaria, Solidago, shrub species such as Rosa, Rubus, Fragaria, Vaccinium, tree species such as Acer, Betula, Populus, as well as Carex and various grasses.

The stems are light green, hairless, leafy, and usually branched.

The leaves are alternate or scattered, hairless, and untoothed. They are green on both sides, possibly somewhat lighter green on the underside, but they are not glaucous. They are oval, more than half as wide as long, or oblong, two to four times longer than wide with nearly parallel sides. They are ¾ to 2 long and up to ¾ wide. They attach to the stem with a short leaf stalk or no leaf stalk at all. The tips are usually pointed.

The inflorescence is a compact, somewhat flattened cluster of 12 or more small flowers at the end of some of the stems.

The flowers are ¼ wide and funnel-shaped. There are 3 to 6 (usually 5) petal-like, greenish-white to white tepals (sepals), fused at the base into a floral tube (hypanthium), and flared at the tips. The tepal lobes beyond the floral tube are less than long. There are no petals. The flowers are not fragrant.

The fruit is small, to ¼ thick, nearly spherical, fleshy, edible, and contains a single seed. They are at first green, then turn brown as they mature.




4 to 12


Flower Color


Greenish-white to white


Similar Species


Pale bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata ssp. pallida) is a more western variety and has been recorded only in Clay and Becker counties in the northwest. The leaves are thicker, often narrower, more or less glaucous, and lack evident lateral veins. The tepal lobes beyond the floral tube are narrower and long or longer. It has larger fruit, ¼ to thick.

False toadflax (Geocaulon lividum) is a northern species. It has been recorded only in Cook and Roseau Counties. It has greenish-purple flowers rising from the middle and upper leaf axils. The flowers do not have a hypanthium. The fruit is an orange to red, juicy berry.


Dry, moderate, or wet. Prairies, prairie fens, open woods, shores, dunes. Full or partial sun.




May to July


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Santalanae  


Santalales (snadalwoods, mistletoes, and allies)  


Santalaceae (sandalwood)  


Comandra (comandras)  
  Species Comandra umbellata (bastard toadflax)  

Comandra umbellata is the only species in the genus Comandra.

In A revised classification of Santalales (Nickrent, D. L. et al. 2010) four new families were named that previously were included in the family Santalaceae. The new family Comandraceae would contain two genera: Geocaulon, with one species; and Comandra, with one species. The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group in stated in APG IV (2016) that alterations of APG III must await future resolution. GRIN, GBIF, and NCBI place Comandra in the family Comandraceae. USDA PLANTS, ITIS, iNaturalist, Plants of the World Online, and World Flora Online place it in the family Santalaceae.




Comandra richardsiana


Common Names


bastard toadflax


eastern comandra

false toadflax













The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.



Covered with a whitish, waxy coating, as on a plum or a grape.



A cup-like tubular structure of a flower formed from the fused bases of sepals, petals, and stamens, that surrounds the pistil. Its presence is diagnostic of many families, including Rose, Gooseberry, and Pea.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.



Refers to both the petals and the sepals of a flower when they are similar in appearance and difficult to tell apart. Tepals are common in lilies and tulips.

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    bastard toadflax (ssp. umbellata)   bastard toadflax (ssp. umbellata)  
    bastard toadflax (ssp. umbellata)   bastard toadflax (ssp. umbellata)  


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