Thursday, May 28, 2009

American Columbo

American Columbo, Frasera caroliniensis, is blooming in force this year. Stress often triggers a plant to go into reproductive overdrive. Drought was extreme here during the summer and fall of 2007 and was even worse in 2008. This had to have caused stress to many plants. I know it stressed me, although I proved I wasn’t a plant by making it through the ordeal without adding to the two kids I already have.
This plant will last for several years as a cluster of basal leaves. I know from experience that Columbo can frustrate a beginning botanizer. I walked past the same cluster plants for two years before one decided to flower.
When all requirements of the plant are met, a thick stalk will ascend 4 to 6 feet and clusters of green blooms will appear. Although they are quite showy when viewed up close, they quickly blend into the dappled sunlight of the woods and can be hard to notice at a distance.
Most years, only a few flowering plants are seen at one site. There are at least a dozen plants showing in the photo above. Scenes like this remind me of the man-eating plants in the old Tarzan movies or John Wyndham's Triffids. I can imagine that lead plant leaning forward to unleash its sting upon me.
Just one more thing. Deer Flies are out in big numbers so be ready to employ whatever defense tactics you usually use. Any guesses on how many pictures you can take before a Deer Fly drills completely through the back of your hand?


  1. Hey Steve I had an article a few years back about a student who discovered that deerflies are really attracted to a medium blue color. The same as those large plastic cups that you can buy in the stores. He found he could get rid of them in his yard by coating the cup with insect stickum and mounting them on a stick so they wobble on his mower and driving around the yard. They would dive in and get caught on the cups. An alternate, though nutty, method was to put the same cup on your hat and walk around and you will hear them but not be bothered by them. Check it out!


  2. Amazing plant. Never heard of one before; we obvioiusly don't have them this far north! How large is BlueJay Barrens? ~karen