Comandra umbellata (Bastard Toadflax)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Comandraceae (Bastard Toadflax)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry prairies, open woods, sandy or rocky soil
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:3 to 15 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Tightly packed flattish clusters of a few to many flowers at the end top of the stem, branch tips, and arising from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are white to greenish, 1/8 to ¼ inch across, tubular with 5 pointed, spreading lobes that give it a star shape. The inside of the tube is green and holds 5 yellow-tipped stamens.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, somewhat variable in shape but generally elliptic, widest below, at or above the middle, toothless, hairless, ½ to 2 inches (to 5+ cm) long, 1/8 to ~½ inch (to 16 mm) wide, pointed or blunt at the tip, and little or no stalk. Color is green, gray-green or blue-green, sometimes with a waxy coating (glaucous). Stems are smooth and slender, branched or not. Plants can form colonies from long rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is an oval to round drupe usually about ¼ inch (4 to 9 mm) long with the remains of the sepals at the tip. The drupe turns blue to brown as it matures and contains a single large seed.


Bastard Toadflax is semi-parasitic, feeding on other plants through its rhizomes. There are 3 subspecies in North America, only one of which is known to be in Minnesota: subsp. umbellata, which has green leaves that lack a waxy coating and have a conspicuous midvein, fruit 4 to 6 mm long, and rhizomes are whitish. Subsp. pallida is present in the western half of North America and, while there are reports of it in Minnesota, there are no herbarium records at this time; its leaves are green to gray-green, have a waxy coating and an obscure midvein, fruit is larger, to 9 mm long, and rhizomes are blue, drying blackish. If present, it is most likely to be in our western counties. The third subspecies, californica, is limited to the west coast and mountainous regions of the southwestern US; it is much like pallida but somewhat larger with persistent over-wintering stems.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County and Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Heather - Minnetonka, Purgatory Park
on: 2010-06-11 17:05:35

Several plants on the edge of a short grass remnant in this park.

Posted by: Brian - LeSueur County, Kasota Prairie SNA
on: 2011-06-12 01:40:20

I saw quite a few of these in the Kasota Prairie SNA on May 28, 2011. Here's a link for a photo:

Posted by: Tim Johnson - Uncas Dunes SNA in Sherburne County
on: 2018-05-24 14:52:38

5/24/18 - Blooming in open prairie areas of the dunes/

Posted by: Al Larson - Southern Cass Co.
on: 2018-05-29 09:40:13

Growing in disturbed soil along roadside.

Posted by: Molly Stoddard - Fergus Falls
on: 2021-05-21 22:23:33

Now blooming at 1 Mile Lake Prairie

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore, MN
on: 2022-05-29 16:04:38

Found in a couple different areas on the edge of woodland area near ditch.

Posted by: Kate Gipp - Lost Prairie SNA
on: 2022-06-05 14:41:40

There were a large number of Bastard Toadflax with both white and pink blooms not far from the entrance of the SNA.

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