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Northern Comandra (Geocaulon lividum)

Life history

Species overview

Northern Comandra (Geocaulon lividum), a Wisconsin Endangered plant, is found in cold, coniferous, stabilized dune forests on the Door Peninsula. Blooming occurs early June through early August; fruiting occurs early July through early September. The optimal identification period for this species is late June through late August.

Synonyms: Comandra livida


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Flowers green to purple with 5 petals, in short, slender-peduncled cymose inflorescences from the upper leaf axils; fruit an orange-yellow to scarlet juicy berry, 5 to 10 mm thick; leaves alternate, narrowly ovate, 1 to 4 cm long.
  • Flower characteristics: Flowers green to purple, 5-parted, 3 mm across, borne in short, slender-peduncled cymose inflorescences from the upper leaf axils, often in clusters 3, though lateral flowers often drop leaving only the center one to mature; filaments very short and broad, scarcely exceeding the lobes of the disk.
  • Fruit characteristics: Berry orange-yellow to scarlet, juicy, 5 to 10 mm thick.
  • Leaf characteristics: Leaves alternate, elliptic to oblong or narrowly ovate, 1 to 4 cm, blunt or rounded, reticulate-veiny.


  • Blooming phenology: early June through early August
  • Fruiting phenology: early July through early September
  • Optimum time to identify: The optimal identification period for this species is late June through late August


  • Growth form: Forb-erect
  • Vegetative reproduction:
  • Life cycle: Perennial
  • Comments: Associated Species: Abies balsamea, Picea mariana, Thuja occidentalis, Zigadenus glaucus, Iris lacustris, Juniperus communis, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, Lilium philadelphicum.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Northern Comandra (Geocaulon lividum). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Geocaulon lividum in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusEND
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

  • Habitat description: Found in cold, coniferous, stabilized dune forests on the Door Peninsula.
  • Soils: Wet soils.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Northern Comandra. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Northern Comandra. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Northern Lake Michigan Coastal 3

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • Avoid broadcast spraying of herbicides; use care with spot spraying.
  • Avoid site preparation that heavily disturbs herbaceous ground layer and soil; these include bulldozing and furrowing, as well as grubbing and stump removal.
  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • This species is hemiparasitic. Therefore, avoid frequent or persistent disturbance to the herbaceous groundlayer.
  • Minimize disturbance to hydrology, including soil disturbance from rutting.
  • Although maintaining high overall forest canopy is important, silvicultural techniques which open small gaps in the canopy may be beneficial to this species.


Northern Comandra Photo.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Northern Comandra Photo.

Photo by  staff, Wisconsin DNR.

Northern Comandra Photo.

Photo © Robert H. Read.

Support for Wisconsin's rare plant information has been provided by the Division of Forestry, the Endangered Resources Fund and the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition