Perennial herb 10 - 40 cm tall Stem: branched or unbranched. Leaves: alternate or scattered, nearly stalkless or short-stalked, pale beneath, 2 - 5 cm long, oblong. Flowers: in compact, terminal clusters, greenish white to whitish, 4 mm wide, radially symmetrical, funnel-shaped. Tepals five, often connected to the anthers by tufts of hair. Petals absent. Stamens five. Fruit: a small, dry, seed-like nut.
Similar species: Comandra umbellata ssp. umbellata, the typical form of the species, is the only one found in the Chicago Region. Two subspecies, californica and pallida, occur west of the region.
Flowering: late April to early July
Habitat and ecology: Found in sandy Black Oak savannas, high dunes, prairies (most characteristically), and prairie fens. Colonial by rhizomes.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Although this plant manufactures much of its own food from photosynthesis, it acts as a parasite by obtaining some of its nutrients from the roots of trees and shrubs.
Etymology: Comandra derives from the Greek words kome ("hair") and andros ("a male"), and refers to the hairy attachment of the tepals to the anthers. Umbellata means "furnished with umbels."