Species Profile

American Columbo

Scientific Name: Frasera caroliniensis
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2006
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

Go to advanced search

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of American Columbo

American Columbo Photo 1



American Columbo is a robust perennial herb with leaves up to 40 cm long. The plant spends most of its life as a rosette of leaves. When stems are produced, they have sets of leaves that become progressively smaller toward the top of the plant. The flowering stem is 2 to 3 m tall. The large flowering head, which grows from the axils of the upper leaves, is shaped like a pyramid. The greenish-yellow petals, which have numerous dark spots, are united at the base and form a saucer-shaped flower 10 to 20 mm long. Populations tend to flower synchronously, with individuals producing a single flowering stem after spending 7 to 15 years or more as a rosette. The fruit is a capsule 1.5 to 2 cm long. Each capsule contains 4 to 14 dark brown, crescent-shaped winged seeds. The plants die after their first and only flowering season.


Distribution and Population

American Columbo is widely distributed in eastern North America, primarily west of the Appalachian Mountains. Its range extends from southern Ontario to northern Alabama and adjacent states. In Canada, American Columbo is restricted to extreme southern Ontario, where 22 populations have been documented. Nine of these populations have not been seen since 1956.   Of the 22 known populations in Canada, 12 are extant; the status of a 13th population is uncertain. Of the extant populations, 10 are large enough to be considered secure in the short term. Of these 10 populations, 2 may be increasing and 4 appear to be stable. Changes in population size cannot be determined for the remaining extant populations because the data that are available are limited. The historical loss of 9 populations represents a decrease of about 41% since 1956. More recent trends are difficult to determine because of the lack of previous population estimates.   The total number of plants in the Canadian populations in 2005 was estimated to be about 4200, with all but a few being rosettes.



American Columbo is most commonly associated with open deciduous forested slopes, but it can also be found in thickets and clearings. American Columbo grows in a variety of relatively stable habitats as well as on a wide variety of soils. In Ontario, American Columbo is frequently found growing with a rare plant, perfoliate bellwort, as well as with woodland sunflower, Pennsylvania sedge, poverty oat-grass and various asters and goldenrods.



Little is known about the biology of this perennial. However, it is known that the plants spend most of their lives as vegetative leafy rosettes and flower only once. The species grows for a number of years before flowering and subsequently dying. Germination and development of the rosette begin in early spring. Flowers open in May, and are sometimes observed until July. Within the same population, individuals flower at the same time. They are fertilized by pollinating insects, including the honeybee and several species of bumblebee. Fruit production continues until October or November. The seeds, which are probably dispersed by gravity, remain in a dormant state until they absorb water and begin their development at about 5°C. As a consequence, seeds that drop in the fall or early winter absorb moisture from the soil, undergo the necessary development, and germinate the following spring. American Columbo lives for many years, and the long lifespan of this species may allow it to persist temporarily in degraded habitats or in sites that are not its preferred habitat.



The Canadian populations of American Columbo are fragmented and are restricted to a highly agricultural and urbanized region that is subject to continuing habitat loss and degradation; however, encroachment by invasive exotic species is currently the primary threat identified for American Columbo. Habitat disturbance in the form of trails, dumping and logging are also a concern.   In the medium term, planned development will cause further losses in three of the extant populations.



Federal Protection

The American Columbo is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the American Columbo (Frasera caroliniensis) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the American Columbo Frasera caroliniensis in Canada (2006)

    American columbo (Frasera caroliniensis) is a taprooted perennial herb of the gentian family (Gentianaceae). Plants exist most of their lives as a basal rosette of leaves that may be as large as 40 cm long. When flowering stems are produced they have sets of whorled leaves that become progressively smaller toward the top of the plant. Flower clusters are produced from the upper leaf axils. Populations tend to flower synchronously, with individuals producing a single flowering stem 2-3 m tall after 7-15+ years in a vegetative state. Plants die after their first and only flowering season and are, therefore, said to be monocarpic.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment - American columbo (2006)

    Designated Special Concern in April 1993. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in April 2006. Last assessment based on an update status report.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - American Columbo (2006)

    A long-lived perennial with 11 to 12 extant Canadian populations. These are fragmented and restricted geographically to a highly agricultural and urbanized region that is subject to continuing habitat loss and degradation. Populations consist primarily of vegetative rosettes with only a few flowering plants produced in a given year. The spread of invasive plants within its habitat is a major threat to the persistence of the species. Further losses of populations due to site development are anticipated.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the American Columbo (Frasera caroliniensis) in Canada (2016)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister under SARA for the American Columbo and has prepared Part 1 of this strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. As per SARA section 44, part 2 of this strategy was adopted from the document developed by the Province of Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry). To the extent possible, this strategy has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry).


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2007)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017