This Week’s Endangered Species in Focus: American Columbo (Frasera caroliniensis)

American Columbo 2 American Columbo 1


This hearty perennial produces tall (the entire plant can reach heights over 2 meters), distinctive spikes of flowers that are green-yellow with purple specks. It grows in a wide range of conditions but prefers partly shaded slopes in deciduous forests. The American Columbo works hard at establishing its roots for up to seven years before it produces it flower spike (some have been known to take 15!) and then dies off.  


Status:  Endangered


Important Dates:

June 30, 2008: Species listed At Risk

November 22, 2013: Recovery Strategy Prepared

June 30, 2013: Species Granted Habitat Protection



In Canada, the American Columbo is only found in the Carolinian forest region of southern Ontario. Based on field surveys performed in 2004 and 2005, 13 populations are currently believed to exist.



  • American Columbo lives in dry upland areas, rocky woods and to a lesser extent along open forest edges and dense shrub thickets in Ontario
  • This species ranges from deciduous forest regions in southern Ontario, through southern Michigan, northern Indiana, southern Illinois, southern Missouri, southeast Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas and northern Louisiana



  • Habitat loss and encroachment from invasive plants such as the Common Buckthorn, Japanese Barberry, White Sweet Clover and Tatarian Honeysuckle are the greatest threats to the American Columbo.



  • The American Columbo receives species and habitat protection under the Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act


What You Can Do to Help:



  • It was a common belief in the early 19th century that the root of the plant might be externally used for gangrene. It was also claimed to be useful in treating jaundice, scurvy, gout and rabies;
  • Two new populations were discovered in Ontario during 2005;
  • The Cherokee Nation used the American Columbo as a tonic, antidiarrheal, antiemetic and a disinfectant; and
  • Populations of American Columbo tend to flower synchronously, with individuals producing a single flower stem 2-3 meters tall




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