This section is from the book "An Illustrated Flora Of The Northern United States, Canada And The British Possessions Vol1", by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Addison Brown. Also available from Amazon: An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 Volume Set..
Glabrous erect perennial herbs, some (or all?) parasitic on roots of other plants. Leaves alternate, oblong, oval, lanceolate or linear, entire, pinnately veined. Flowers perfect, terminal or axillary, rarely solitary, cymose, bractless. Calyx campanulate, the base of its tube adnate to the ovary, its limb 5-lobed (rarely 4-lobed). Stamens 5, or rarely 4, inserted at the base of the calyx-lobes and between the lobes of the disk, attached to the middle of the lobes by tufts of hairs. Anthers ovate, 2-celled. Fruit drupaceous, globose or ovoid, crowned by the persistent calyx. [Greek, referring to the hairy attachments of the anthers.]
Leaves oblong, green; fruit globose-urn-shaped.
Leaves lanceolate or linear, glaucous; fruit ovoid.
Peduncles few, axillary; leaves oval, obtuse, short-petioled; style short.
3. C. livida.
Thesium umbellatum L. Sp. PI. 208. 1753. Comandra umbellata Nutt. Gen. 1: 157. 1818. C. Richardsiana Fernald, Rhodora 7: 48. 1905.
Stem slender, very leafy, usually branched, 6'-18' tall. Leaves oblong or oblong-lanceolate, green, acute or subacute at both ends, sessile, ascending, 1/2'-1 1/4' long, the lower smaller; cymes several-flowered, corymbose at the summit of the plant or also axillary, their branches divergent or ascending; peduncles filiform, 1/4'-1' long; pedicels very short; calyx greenish-white or purplish, about 2" high; style slender; drupe globose, 21/2-3" in diameter, crowned by the upper part of the calyx-tube and its 5 oblong lobes.
Comandra pallida A. DC. Prodr. 14: 636. 1857.
Similar to the preceding species but paler and glaucous, usually much branched, the leaves narrower, linear or linear-lanceolate, acute or the lowest and those of the stem oblong-elliptic; cymes few-several-flowered, corymbose-clustered at the summit; peduncles usually short; pedicels about 1" long; calyx purplish, about 2" high; fruit ovoid-oblong, 3"-4" high and 2"-2 1/2" in diameter, crowned by the short upper part of the calyx-tube and its 5 oblong lobes.
In dry soil, Manitoba to British Columbia, south to Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico and California. April-July.
Comandra livida Richards. App. Frank. Journ. 734. 1823.
Stem slender, usually quite simple, 4'-12' high. Leaves oval, thin, obtuse or rounded at the apex, narrowed at the base, short-petioled, 1/2'-l' long, 1/4'-1/2' wide; petioles 1"-2" long; cymes axillary, few (often only 1 to each plant), 1-5-flowered; peduncle shorter than its subtending leaf, filiform; flowers sessile; style very short; drupe globose-oblong, about 3" in diameter, red, edible, crowned by the ovate calyx-lobes.
In moist soil, Newfoundland to Hudson Bay, Alaska, New Hampshire, Vermont, Ontario, Michigan, Idaho and Washington. June-July.