Chamaelirium luteum - (L.) Gray
Devil's-bit
Other English Common Names: Fairywand, False unicorn root, false unicorn root
Other Common Names: fairywand
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Chamaelirium luteum (L.) Gray (TSN 42894)
French Common Names: chamélire jaunissant
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.144213
Element Code: PMLIL0F010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Lily Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Monocotyledoneae Liliales Liliaceae Chamaelirium
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Chamaelirium luteum
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 25Jan2001
Global Status Last Changed: 08Apr1986
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Chamaelirium luteum occurs in eastern North America from Michigan and Ontario, east to Massachusetts, and south to Louisiana and Florida. It is relatively rare in the northern portion of the range and more common in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. C. luteum grows in a variety of habitats, including moist slopes, bottomlands, wet savannas, and open calcareous wet meadows, dry woods, barrens, and bluffs; typically absent from the eastern coastal plain. Roots of this slow-growing species are commercially available, and although this species is modestly traded for medicinal use, a majority (90%) of that supply of roots is wild-collected. C. luteum is also threatened by clearcutting and shelterwood cutting in mesic areas, and hydrological change.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5
Nation: Canada
National Status: NX (20Dec2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (SNR), Arkansas (S3), Connecticut (S1), Delaware (S1), District of Columbia (SNR), Florida (SNR), Georgia (SNR), Illinois (S1), Indiana (S1), Kentucky (S4), Louisiana (S2S3), Maryland (S2), Massachusetts (S1), Michigan (SNA), Mississippi (SNR), New Jersey (S3), New York (S1S2), North Carolina (S5), Ohio (SNR), Pennsylvania (S4), South Carolina (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Virginia (S5), West Virginia (S5)
Canada Ontario (SX)

Other Statuses

Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC): Candidate (Low) (26Jan2015)

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Chamaelirium luteum occurs in eastern North America from Michigan and Ontario, east to Massachusetts, and south to Louisiana and Florida. It is relatively rare in the northern portion of the range and more common in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Population Size Comments: Chamaelirium luteum is relatively less common towards the perimeter of its range. It is considered rare in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Occasionally found in Kentucky (pers. comm. D. White, October 2000). Not commonly seen in South Carolina, but typically found in large, single-sex patches (pers. comm. J. Nelson, October 2000). It is occasionally seen in Maine (pers. comm. D. Cameron, October 2000). In the Nantahala National Forest of North Carolina, mountain populations are typically small in number (pers. comm. G. Kauffman, November 2000). It occurs throughout Pennsylvania (Rhoads and Block 2000). Also common in North Carolina and Virginia, though rare in coastal plain (Weakley 2000 Draft).

Overall Threat Impact: High - medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Currently there is demand for wild-collected seeds. This may imply that there is an interest in cultivation, since the roots are used medicinally. However, medicinal use probably poses a minimal threat to this species. Some experts in the medicinal plant industry have suggested that trade is medium to large and demand has increased over the past ten years (Robbins 1999). However, the recent level of demand is "steady and very modest" according to Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (pers. comm., December 2000). For example, only 10 permits to collect a total of 500 pounds in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina have been issued in the last three years (pers. com. G. Kauffman, November 2000). Estimated average annual use in medicinal industry ranges from 2,000-3,000 dry pounds and 90% of that total is collected from wild populations (pers. comm. E. Fletcher, December 2000). This is a slow growing plant, so over-collection is a potential threat, given a significant increase in demand.

Clearcutting and shelterwood cutting in mesic areas threaten this species (D. White, pers. comm. November 2000), as would development of suitable habitat.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <70% to Relatively Stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Apparently relatively stable, although New York has reported severe population declines throughout the state (T. Weldy, NYNHP). Some experts in the medicinal plant industry have suggested that populations and species have declined over the past ten years (Robbins 1999).

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: Chamaelirium luteum occurs in eastern North America from Michigan and Ontario, east to Massachusetts, and south to Louisiana and Florida. It is relatively rare in the northern portion of the range and more common in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, MIexotic, MS, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, TN, VA, WV
Canada ONextirpated

Range Map
No map available.


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CT Fairfield (09001), Litchfield (09005), New Haven (09009)
DE New Castle (10003)
IL Hardin (17069), Massac (17127), Pope (17151)
IN Crawford (18025)*, Harrison (18061), Posey (18129)*, Vanderburgh (18163)*
LA Lincoln (22061)*, Natchitoches (22069), Ouachita (22073), St. Helena (22091)*, St. Tammany (22103)*, Tangipahoa (22105)*, Washington (22117), West Feliciana (22125)
MA Berkshire (25003)
NJ Sussex (34037), Warren (34041)
NY Cattaraugus (36009), Columbia (36021)*, Dutchess (36027), Erie (36029), Orange (36071)*, Putnam (36079), Richmond (36085)*, Rockland (36087)*, Tompkins (36109)*
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Quinnipiac (01100004)+, Housatonic (01100005)+, Saugatuck (01100006)+
02 Middle Hudson (02020006)+*, Rondout (02020007)+, Hudson-Wappinger (02020008)+*, Lower Hudson (02030101)+, Hackensack-Passaic (02030103)+*, Sandy Hook-Staten Island (02030104)+*, Middle Delaware-Mongaup-Brodhead (02040104)+, Middle Delaware-Musconetcong (02040105)+, Brandywine-Christina (02040205)+, Owego-Wappasening (02050103)+*
03 Lower Pearl. Mississippi (03180004)+, Bogue Chitto (03180005)+
04 Cattaraugus (04120102)+, Seneca (04140201)+*
05 Upper Allegheny (05010001)+, Blue-Sinking (05140104)+, Highland-Pigeon (05140202)+*, Lower Ohio-Bay (05140203)+, Saline (05140204)+*, Lower Ohio (05140206)+*
08 Bayou D'arbonne (08040206)+*, Lower Ouachita (08040207)+, Dugdemona (08040303)+*, Bayou Sara-Thompson (08070201)+, Amite (08070202)+*, Tangipahoa (08070205)+*, Liberty Bayou-Tchefuncta (08090201)+*, Lake Pontchartrain (08090202)+*
11 Saline Bayou (11140208)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: Chamaelirium luteum is a dioecious, herbaceous perennial with 1-20 whorled basal leaves. Male flowering stalks bend at the top and produce around 100, 6-petaled flowers. Female stalks are erect and produce fewer greenish flowers and pod-shaped fruits that persist through the winter (Carrolan 1983).
Habitat Comments: Chamaelirium luteum grows in a variety of habitats, including moist slopes, bottomlands, wet savannas (Weakley 2000 Draft), dry woods, barrens (Rhoads and Block 2000), and bluffs (Wunderlin 1998); typically absent from the eastern coastal plains. Chamaelirium luteum also thrives in open woods and relatively open calcareous wet meadows (Carrolan 1983).
Economic Attributes
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Economic Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG
Production Method: Cultivated, Wild-harvested
Economic Comments: This species is also known as star grass and devil's bit. Reportedly, Chamaelirium luterum (false unicorn root) can be confused with Aletris farinosa L. (true unicorn root), although this is due to the use of common names in the herbal industry, rather than morphological similarities. Although this plant is not related to the genus Helonias, Helonias is the name most used in the industry (Sievers 1930). In 2000, the estimated price per pound was $20.  In 2017, this species collected $50 per pound.
Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 13Feb2004
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: McConnell, K, Troy W. Weldy (rev. 2004)

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
  • Allard DJ. 2003. Chamaelirium lufeum (L.) A. Gray (Devil's Bit). Conservation and Research Plan for New England. New England Wildflower Society, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA. (http://www.newfs.org/docs/pdf/Chamaelirium%20luteum.PDF).

  • Argus, G.W., K.M. Pryer, D.J. White and C.J. Keddy (eds.). 1982-1987. Atlas of the Rare Vascular Plants of Ontario.. Botany Division, National Museum of National Sciences, Ottawa.

  • Baskin CC, Baskin JM, Chester EW. 2001. Morphophysiological dormancy in seeds of Chamaelirium luteum, a long-lived dioecious lily. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 128: 7-15.

  • Carrolan, Thomas L. 1983. Report on the Conservation Status of Chamaelirium luteum in the Northeast: A Candidate Endan- gered Species in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. 37 p.

  • Deam, C. C. 1940. Flora of Indiana. Division of Forestry, Dept. of Conservation, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1236 pp.

  • Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 26. Magnoliophyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. Oxford University Press, New York. 723 pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002a. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 26. Magnoliophyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxvi + 723 pp.

  • Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

  • Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Meagher TR. 1982. The population biology of Chamaelirium luteum, a dioecious lily. I. Spatial distributions of males and females. Evolution 34(6): 1127-1137.

  • Meagher, T.R. 1980. Population biology of Chamaelirium luteum, a dioecious lily. I. Spatial distributions of males and females. Evolution 34(6):1127-1137.

  • Meagher, T.R. 1991. Analysis of paternity within a natural population of Chamaelirium luteum. II. Patterns of male reproductive success. The American Naturalist 137(6): 738-752.

  • Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

  • Moye, William S. 2006. Highly Ranked Plants of the South Mountain Region. Unpublished notes sent via email to Misty Franklin in February 2006.

  • New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

  • Newcomb, Lawrence. 1977. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: An Ingenious New Key System for Quick, Positive Field Identification of the Wildflowers, Flowering Shrubs, and Vines of Northeastern and North-Central North America. Little, Brown and Company. Boston.

  • Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

  • Rhoads, A.F. and T.A. Block. 2000. The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1061 pp.

  • Robbins, C. 1999. Medicine from US wildlands: An assessment of native plant species harvested in the United States for medicinal use and trade and evaluation of the conservation and management implications. Traffic North America. Prepared for The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA. Available at http://www.nps.gov/plants/medicinal/.

  • Sievers, A.F. 1930. The Herb Hunters Guide. Misc. Publ. No. 77. USDA, Washington DC: Available Online http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/herbhunters/chamaelirium. html. Updated 3/18/98. Accessed October 18, 2000.

  • Soper, J.H. 1962. Some genera of restricted range in the Carolinian flora of Canada. Transactions of the Royal Canadian Institute 34(1):3-56.

  • Sutherland, D.A. 1987. The Vascular Plants of Haldimand-Norfolk. Pages 1-52 in The Natural Areas Inventory of the Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk - Volume II: Annotated Checklists. Norfolk Field Naturalists, Simcoe, Ontario.

  • Weakley, A.S. 2000. Flora of the Carolinas and Virginia: working draft of May 15, 2000. Unpublished draft, The Nature Conservancy, Southern Resource Office.

  • Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://wwws.nyflora.org/, Albany, New York

  • Wunderlin, R.P. 1998. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida. University Press of Florida: Gainesville, Florida. 806 pp.

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