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Manitoba Museum

Sandalwood (Santalaceae)

Pale Comandra

Comandra umbellata (L.) Nutt.

These perennial plants spread by rhizomes. They obtain some of their nutrients by sending out underground suckers that attach to the roots of other plants, including trees and shrubs, and siphoning off some of the sap. Their flowers have no noticeable scent, but provide a nectar source for butterflies, flies, bees and beetles, some of which act as pollinators. Small mammals, such as mice, likely eat the fruits, helping distribute the seeds.

Flower Colour:

  • White

Flowering Season:

  • Spring
  • Summer

Flowering Months:

  • April
  • July
  • June
  • May

Canadian Rarity Status:

Not rare. Listed as “sensitive” in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, and “may be at risk” in Yukon and Nova Scotia.

Physical Appearance:

Several clustered stems (1-7) grow 5-50 cm tall. The alternate, oval-shaped leaves have smooth edges, and short to no stalks. Small, shallow, tube-shaped flowers occur in compact, flattened clusters of 12 or more. Each one has five white, flared sepals with light green or rose accents, and several yellow stamens. Petals are absent. Fruits are single-seeded and berry-like.

Similar Species:

Long-leaved Bluets, Northern Bedstraw, Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima L.)

Gardening Notes:

Seeds and/or plants may be available from greenhouses and seed supply companies specializing in native plants. These plants are a good addition to a dry prairie garden.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland/Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie


  • Open Woodlands
  • Prairies

Moisture Conditions:

  • Dry
  • Moderate

Light Preference:

  • Full Sun
  • Part Shade

Soil Preference:

  • Gravel
  • Loam
Pale Comandra