Frasera caroliniensis Walter

American Columbo

Frasera caroliniensis plant

Family - Gentianaceae

Leaf - Basal rosettes present prior to flowering. Cauline leaves whorled in groups of 4-5, 10-20 cm long, becoming progressively smaller upward, grading into linear bracts in inflorescence.

Frasera_caroliniensis_basalsVegetative rosettes.

Stem - Flowering stem erect, to 2.5 m, thick, hollow, glabrous, green to purplish.

Frasera_caroliniensis_stemFlowering stem.

Frasera_caroliniensis_leafCauline leaf.

Inflorescence - Appearing as large, conic or conic-elliptic, highly branched panicle. Consists of numerous smaller, mostly axillary panicles.


Calyx - Calyces lobed nearly to base, the lobes linear-lanceolate, 6-10 mm long.


Flower - Tetramerous. Corollas greenish yellow to nearly white, purple-dotted, deeply lobed, the lobes 10-14 mm long, each lobe bearing a large, fringed, purple nectary gland near the middle of the upper surface. Filaments of stamens elongate, connate at base. Ovaries ovoid, the style elongate, persistent in fruit, the stigma capitate, 2-lobed.

Frasera_caroliniensis_flowerFlower, lateral view.

Frasera_caroliniensis_flower2Corolla and nectaries.

Fruits - Ovoid capsules 15-25 mm long, longitudinally dehiscent.


Flowering - May - July.

Habitat - Forests, glades, bases of bluffs, streambanks.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - Here is a plant which, when flowering, is easy to identify and impossible to miss. Colonies of the large, light green, glabrous rosettes are common springtime sights in woodlands. A typical plant exists only as a basal rosette for several years before finally sending up a flowering stalk, after which it dies. Bolting may be triggered partially by weather patterns, as regional mass flowering events have been observed. It is always a treat to encounter flowering specimens while strolling in the woods in late spring. The flowers are beautiful and interesting in detail, with large, fringed nectary glands on the petal surfaces. These attract a wild profusion of bumblebees, ants, and other insects.
This species has been known as Swertia caroliniensis (Walter) Kuntze. Numerous additional members of the genus Frasera are found in western parts of the U.S.

Photographs taken at Valley View Glade Natural Area, Jefferson County, MO, 5-24-2010, Washington State Park, Washington County, MO, 7-5-2011, St. Joe State Park, St. Francois County, MO, 5-14-2012, and Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 6-5-2014 (SRTurner); also at unrecorded site in Missouri, 3-29-2000 (JRAbbott).