Range and Habitat in Illinois
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: This plant ranges from Michigan, southern Ontario, and western New York southward to South Carolina and northern Georgia, and westward Illinois, Missouri, eastern Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
Leaves simple, whorled on the stem. Corolla rotate, the small tube much shorter than its lobes or the calyx lobes. Flowers yellow-greenish. Style well developed. Corolla lobes bearing a large fringed gland.
Range and Habitat in Illinois
Comments: Upland deciduous forest, particularly near the margins and in clearings.
Flower-Visiting Insects of American Columbo in Illinois
(Short-tongued bees suck nectar or collect pollen, other insects suck nectar; short-tongued bees and skippers are non-pollinating; all observations are from Robertson)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera fq sn; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus griseocallis sn fq, Bombus pensylvanica sn; Anthophoridae (Anthophorini): Anthophora abrupta sn fq
Halictidae (Halictinae): Lasioglossum coriaceus sn cp np
Vespidae: Polistes fuscata sn
Hesperiidae: Thorybes pylades sn np
Life History and Behavior
Persistence: PERENNIAL, Long-lived, DECIDUOUS
n=39 Plants die after flowering and fruiting.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Frasera caroliniensis
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Comments: Habitat loss and fragmentation may be impacting some populations and intensive forest management could eliminate the species (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Comments: Root used as an emetic and cathartic or as tonic.
Frasera caroliniensis, commonly known as American columbo or yellow gentian, is a herbaceous perennial of the gentian family Gentianaceae found in the deciduous forest of Southern Ontario and throughout the eastern and southeastern United States. It was previously known as Swertia caroliniensis.
American columbo is a monocarpic perennial, meaning it flowers once after multiple seasons, and then dies. When it reaches the flowering stage, the leaves develop in whorls on an elongated stem, and approximately 50 to 100 flowers will develop a panicle, with the fruits maturing soon after. The flowers that it produces are folious (tall and "spike"-like), green to yellow in colour with purple speckles. It is a perfect and complete flower, with four stamens and two carpels. The entire plant can reach heights over 2 metres (7 ft). Though it is monocarpic, the plant may live for up to 30 years before flowering.
The roots of F. caroliniensis are a taproot system, with a thick and fleshy taproot, and in some Frasera species, this may be modified into a branched rhizome. The leaves of F. caroliensis are carried on stalks ("petiolate") and have a thick, waxy texture.
Distribution and habitat
American columbo lives in dry upland areas, rocky woods and areas with calcareous soil, though it is not limited by soil texture or other soil characteristics. The species ranges from deciduous forest regions in southern Ontario, through southern Michigan, northern Indiana, southern Illinois, southern Missouri, southeast Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, and northern Louisiana.
Medicinal uses for American columbo have mostly been rebutted. However, it was a common belief in the early 19th century that the root of the plant might be externally used for gangrene. It was also claimed to be useful in treating jaundice, scurvy, gout and rabies.
Several tree species are associated with F. caroliniensis, such as sweet-gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and pignut hickory (Carya glabra). Even more vines and understory trees are associated with this species, such as eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). Herbs associated with the species include the prostrate ticktrefoil (Desmodium rotundifolium), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and ebony spleenwort (Asplenium platyneuron). The canopy of trees that are associated with this species are important for its survival, though if the canopy becomes too dense the plant may not flower as well. When the plants do flower, they contain large nectaries, which aid in pollination.
This species is endangered in Ontario and nationally in Canada. The most extreme limiting factor for this species is invasive plants that are heavily infesting its habitat. This may be attributed to its long life cycle, which would not allow the species to adapt to rapid changes in environment, and therefore not survive long enough to disperse its seeds. Also this species has a “seed dormancy” (prevention of germination until optimal environmental conditions are present), that can only be broken in typical spring conditions. Furthermore deforestation can be extremely destructive to the plants, as they rely on the canopy provided from the trees. Conservation practices to manage these issues include leaving surrounding trees within 4 square metres (43 sq ft), stimulating growth by cutting a small opening in the canopy, and draining overly flooded areas to provide clay-like soil.
- Horn, N. C. 1997. An ecological study of Frasera caroliniensis. Castanea, journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society. 62(3): 185-193.
- Card, H.H. 1931. A revision of Genus Frasera. Annals of Missouri Botanical Garden. 18(2): 245-282. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2394089
- Threadgill, F. P., Baskin, M. T., Baskin, C. C. 1979. Geographical Ecology of Frasera caroliniensis. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 106(3): 185-188.
- Threadgill, F. P., Baskin, M. T., Baskin, C. C. 1981. The ecological life cycle of Frasera caroliniensis, a long-lived monocarpic perennial. American Midland Naturalist. 105(2): 277-289.
- COSEWIC status report
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