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Comandra umbellata
Comandra umbellata subspecies pallida (Bastard Toadflax)
Santalaceae (Sandalwood Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Meadows, openings. Spring, summer.
Canyonlands National Park, April 7, 2004.

Comandra umbellata is hemiparasitic, sometimes attaching itself to the roots of other plants and deriving at least some nourishment from them.  It has green leaves and thus also photosynthesizes.  It spreads by underground roots and can form large colonies in meadows and along roadsides, as shown below.  Or it can grow in small numbers, even inserting itself into rock crevices, as the photograph at left shows. 

The star-shaped flowers are white to pink, tiny, and massed.  Leaves are short and somewhat thick, resembling those of a succulent. The plant is not a relative of Toadflax but someone thought the leaves resembled those of Toadflax, hence the common name.  Comandra umbellata is a relative of the Australian Sandalwoods, and our species is one of two worldwide in this genus.

The plant was first named Thesium umbellata by Linnaeus in 1753, but in 1818 Thomas Nuttall moved it to the new genus, "Comandra", which he created.  "Comandra" is from the Greek for "male hairs" and refers to hairs on the stamens.  "Umbellata", "umbrella like", refers to the shape of the flower clusters -- though we now call this shape a "corymb".

Based on 2010 research by Nickrent et al., Weber now places this species in Comandraceae (Comandra Family) but Kartesz, the ultimate authority for nomenclature for this web site, retains Comandra in Santalaceae.

Comandra umbellata
Comandra umbellata subspecies pallida (Bastard Toadflax)
Santalaceae (Sandalwood Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Meadows, openings. Spring, summer.
Canyonlands National Park, April 7, 2004.

Comandra umbellata

Comandra umbellata

Comandra umbellata subspecies pallida (Bastard Toadflax)
Santalaceae (Sandalwood Family)

Semi-desert, foothills. Meadows, openings. Spring, summer.
BLM land above Dolores River, April 25, 2007 and Carpenter Natural Area, May 26, 2014.

Comandra umbellata often is very noticeable and lovely as it spreads itself over large areas, here about 50 square feet.

A close-up photograph gives a very different view of the plant.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Comandra umbellata