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Photo: Geocaulon lividum

Geocaulon lividum (Richards.) Fern.

Northern Comandra

Habitat: In moss or damp humus, often in alpine or subalpine areas. [Coastal non-tidal wetland (non-forested, wetland); Alpine or subalpine (non-forested, upland)]

Range: Labrador and Newfoundland to Alaska, south to northern New England and northern New York.

Aids to Identification: This perennial herb grows to 10-30 cm, with veiny, rounded or blunt leaves, 1-4 cm long. The flowers grow on stalks from the leaf-axils in groups of 3, usually 2 of the 3 flowers bear pollen only, so only one flower of each cluster will actually develop into a fruit. The petals are greenish-purple and triangular. The fleshy fruit is juicy, 5-10 mm thick, and orange-yellow to red in color.

Photo: Geocaulon lividum

Ecological characteristics: In Maine this species typically occurs in nutrient poor areas, such as peatlands or krummholz, often in association with ericaceous vegetation.

Phenology: Flowers June - August.

Family: Santalaceae

Synonyms: Referred to in some very old treatments as Comandra livida Richardson.

Photo: Geocaulon lividum

Known Distribution in Maine: This rare plant has been documented from a total of 14 town(s) in the following county(ies): Aroostook, Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis, Washington.

Dates of documented observations are: 1900 (2), 1907, 1950, 1957, 1978, 1982 (5), 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1996 (3), 1997, 1999 (3), 2000 (2), 2002 (2)

Reason(s) for rarity: Disjunct from principal range. Inconspicuous and easily overlooked when not in fruit.

Conservation considerations: Maintain hydrology of its wetland habitats. Some populations in the Mahoosucs may be subject to heavy recreational (hiking) impacts.