Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Geocaulon lividum
Photo © 2004, 2005 by Anderson Smith



SPECIES: Geocaulon lividum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Matthews, Robin F. 1994. Geocaulon lividum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions : On 7 October 2014, the common name of this species was changed from: northern comandra to: flase toadflax, and the photo above was added.
ABBREVIATION : GEOLIV SYNONYMS : Comandra livida Richards [[14] SCS PLANT CODE : COLI3 COMMON NAMES : false toadflax northern comandra northern toadflax timberberry TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of false toadflax is Geocaulon lividum (Richardson) Fern. (Santalaceae) [13,26,28,35]. There are no recognized subspecies, varieties, or forms. LIFE FORM : Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : See OTHER STATUS OTHER STATUS : The Montana Natural Heritage Program lists false toadflax as globally secure (G4) but imperiled in Montana (S2) because of rarity or because other factors make it vulnerable to extirpation [20]. The U.S. Forest Service classifies false toadflax as sensitive in Montana; it has been located on the Flathead and Kootenai National Forests [31]. False toadflax is included on Maine's list of Plant Species of Special Concern [43] and is considered threatened in New Hampshire [40]; however, it is widespread in the Mahoosuc Range on the Maine-New Hampshire border [29,40]. It is also threatened in New York and has been assigned a state rank of S1 (critically imperiled in New York state because of extreme rarity or is extremely vulnerable to extirpation from New York State due to biological factors) [41,42]. False toadflax was known from a single site in Vermont, a tiny bog on Mt. Mansfield, but has not been found since 1901 and is now presumed extirpated in that state [40].


SPECIES: Geocaulon lividum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : False toadflax is distributed from Newfoundland to Alaska south to northern Washington, northern Idaho, northwest Montana, New England, New York, and northern portions of the Great Lakes States [9,13,14,20,26]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES18 Maple - beech - birch FRES19 Aspen - birch FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce FRES28 Western hardwoods STATES : AK ID ME MI MN MT NH NY WA WI AB BC MB NB NF NT NS ON PQ SK YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 8 Northern Rocky Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest K094 Conifer bog K095 Great Lakes pine forest K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 5 Balsam fir 12 Black spruce 13 Black spruce - tamarack 16 Aspen 18 Paper birch 35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir 37 Northern white-cedar 38 Tamarack 201 White spruce 202 White spruce - paper birch 203 Balsam poplar 204 Black spruce 206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir 217 Aspen 222 Black cottonwood - willow 251 White spruce - aspen 252 Paper birch 253 Black spruce - white spruce 254 Black spruce - paper birch SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : False toadflax is not listed as a dominant or codominant understory species in available publications. Species commonly associated with false toadflax throughout its range include American green alder (Alnus viridis ssp. crispa), bog Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), willow (Salix spp.), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), prickly rose (Rosa acicularis), mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), bog blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), highbush cranberry (Viburnum edule), bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), one-sided wintergreen (Pyrola secunda), bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis), horsetails (Equisetum spp.), feathermosses (Hylocomium splendens and Pleurozium schreberi), and lichens (Cladonia spp. and Peltigera aphthosa) [3,5,21,38]. False toadflax has a significantly (p<.10) higher presence (a classification of relative frequency values) in black spruce (Picea mariana) forests than in white spruce (P. glauca) forests throughout the boreal spruce-fir forests of North America [19].


SPECIES: Geocaulon lividum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : In Alaska, spruce grouse consume small amounts of false toadflax berries in the fall [7]. The berries are also eaten by red-backed voles [37]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : False toadflax is an alternate host for the canker-producing comandra blister rust fungus (Cronartium comandrae). The rust infects jack pine (Pinus banksiana) but is not a "serious enemy" [35].


SPECIES: Geocaulon lividum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : False toadflax is a perennial, hemiparasitic forb. It has creeping rhizomes, located in the humus layer of the soil. The leafy stems are 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) tall. The inflorescence is a cymule with two to three green or purple flowers. The central flower is perfect, but the others have stamens only. The fruit is a one-seeded, orange drupe [9,13,28,35,36]. False toadflax is a root parasite that forms haustoria (lateral outgrowths of the root) which connect it to a host's roots or rhizomes. The haustoria are white when young but become brown with age. They have been described in detail. Some host genera include spruce (Picea spp.), pine (Pinus spp.), birch (Betula spp.), willow (Salix spp.), alder (Alnus spp.), and twinflower (Linnaea spp.). A more complete list of host genera is available [36]. False toadflax is difficult to distinguish from low sweet blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) varieties, and from bog blueberry (V. uliginosum var. alpinum) [29]. It also closely resembles bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata) [40]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Hemicryptophyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : False toadflax presumably reproduces by seed and sprouting from rhizomes. However, specific information on regeneration is not available in the literature. Zasada [39] stated that undisturbed feathermoss mats may inhibit germination of false toadflax seeds, but not vegetative reproduction. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : False toadflax is found in bogs and moist coniferous or deciduous woods [6,13,20,28]. It often occupies acid or sterile soils and damp sands [26]. In British Columbia, false toadflax is an indicator of continental boreal and cool temperate climates and nitrogen-poor soils. It is found in montane to subalpine coniferous forests [17]. In New England, false toadflax is found from sea level to 4,100 feet (1,200 m) elevation [15,29,40]. Populations in Montana are found in moist spruce (Picea spp.) forests, often bordering wetland areas, from 3,000 to 3,300 feet (900-1,000 m) elevation [20]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : False toadflax is found in both open and closed, mature white spruce and black spruce forests in Alaska that range in age from 70 to over 180 years [4,21,25]. False toadflax often occupies bottomland spruce-hardwood forests on floodplains of the taiga of Alaska. It is found in balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) and black cottonwood (P. trichocarpa) stands with thick shrub understories that follow the initial shrub (alder and willow) stage after flooding. These stands are usually present for 20 to 100 years and are then replaced by white spruce if subsequent flooding has not occurred. False toadflax persists through the spruce stage and can be found in closed white spruce stands with a thick feathermoss mat. Greatest cover is reached in later successional stages such as in open white spruce stands (250+ years old), and in black spruce stands on older terraces above the active floodplain [23,34]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : False toadflax flowers from May to August [9,13,28].


SPECIES: Geocaulon lividum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Little information is available on false toadflax fire survival strategies. It probably survives fire by sprouting from buried rhizomes. Since fires in riparian and mesic sites are often discontinuous, false toadflax may also colonize from unburned patches. False toadflax is present in black spruce and jack pine woodlands that result from fire and have a fire return interval of less than 100 years, and often as little as 50 years [2,22,27]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Geocaulon lividum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : False toadflax is probably top-killed by most fires. Survival of rhizomes is dependent on depth of burial and fire severity. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : False toadflax is found in postfire communities in the taiga of interior Alaska. It may be present after fire in white spruce forests on floodplains and river terraces on sites that are well drained, or in black spruce forests that are poorly drained and underlain by permafrost. False toadflax generally appears early in postfire succession, increases slowly, and reaches greatest cover in late successional, spruce-dominated forest. Mean percent frequency (f) and cover (c) of false toadflax in postfire communities on white spruce or black spruce sites follow [10]: White spruce Black spruce Stage Postfire YR f c Postfire YR f c _____________________________________________________________________ Newly burned 0-1 0 0 0-1 2 <0.5 Moss-herb 1-5 4 <0.5 1-5 2 <0.5 Tall shrub-sapling 3-30 9 <0.5 5-30 1 <0.5 Dense tree 26-45 0 0 30-55 28 1 Hardwood 46-150 6 <0.5 -- -- -- Mixed hardwood-spruce -- -- -- 56-90 23 1 Spruce 150-300+ 60 3 91-200+ 70 4 In northeast Alaska, false toadflax was present on one of four sites in postfire year 4 following the Porcupine River Fire of August, 1950. The fire had burned all or most of the undecomposed material present and was considered "severe" on the site where false toadflax was found. False toadflax was present in postfire years 7 and 11, but was not reported in postfire years 23 or 31 [11]. False toadflax had the following percent frequency and cover in severely burned stands after the Wickersham Dome Fire near Fairbanks, Alaska in June of 1971 [33]: Black spruce Aspen f c f c _________________________________________________________________ 1971 5 .05 -- -- 1972 10 .10 0 0 1973 15 .25 0 0 1974 5 .05 0 0 unburned control 90 2.60 20 .65 In postfire succession in white spruce, black spruce, and balsam fir (Abies balsamifera) stands on Isle Royale, Michigan, false toadflax increases with stand age. It remains relatively unimportant in stands less than 100 years old, then steadily increases until stands reach 200+ years of age [16]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Geocaulon lividum
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