Author: Jan Scholten
English: American columbo; Yellow gentian; Swertia caroliniensis;
Aka; American calumba; American colombo; Radix colombo americanae; Frasera Walteri; Frasera Canadensis; Faux colomo; Meadowpride; Pyramid-flower; Pyramid-plant; Indian lettuce; Ground-century.
Region: Southern Ontario, eastern and southeastern United States.
Botany: herbaceous perennial; deciduous forest; monocarpic perennial; flowers once after multiple seasons, and then dies. When it reaches the flowering stage, the 3 - 6 inch lanceolate leaves develop (usually in whorls of four) on a round elongated stem, and approximately 50 to 100 flowers will develop a panicle, with the fruits maturing soon after. The flowers that it produces are about 1 inch in diameter and folious (tall and "spike"-like), green to yellow in colour with purple speckles. It is a perfect and complete flower, with four stamens and two carpels. The oblong shaped seed capsule has a brownish color and is about 1/2 inch long. The entire plant can reach heights over 2 metres (7 ft). Though it is monocarpic, the plant may live for up to 30 years before flowering.
American columbo lives in dry upland areas, rocky woods and areas with calcareous soil, though it is not limited by soil texture or other soil characteristics. The 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.
Medicinal uses for American columbo have mostly been rebutted. However, 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.
The dried root, which was official in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1880, is used as a simple tonic.
Frasera caroliniensis is chiefly known as an occasional substitute for Calumba root, or Jatheorrhiza Columba, a native of Mozambique.
Frasera (green gentian) is a genus in the gentian family, native to North America and named for John Fraser, a Scottish botanist and colleague of Thomas Walter.
Historically, Frasera has sometimes been considered part of Swertia, but molecular analysis of a number of Frasera species has shown them to form a monophyletic clade separate from the rest of Swertia.