Species Profile

Colicroot

Scientific Name: Aletris farinosa
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2015
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2ace+3ce+4ace
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This perennial herb is restricted to remnant, disturbance-dependent prairie habitats in southwestern Ontario. It continues to decline in the face of multiple threats, including habitat modification, invasive species, and browsing by deer. Prairie habitat, for example, naturally transitions to less suitable habitat types in the absence of periodic disturbance (e.g., fire), and its quality and extent are also vulnerable to ongoing urban and industrial development. Recent construction of a new transportation corridor caused the removal of more than 50% of all mature plants in the Canadian population and loss of habitat. Although plants have been transplanted from the transportation corridor to nearby restoration sites, it is too early to know whether these relocated subpopulations will be self-sustaining so they cannot yet be considered to contribute to the population.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Threatened in April 1988. Status re-examined and confirmed in November 2000. Status re-examined and designated Endangered in November 2015.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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

Image of Colicroot

Colicroot Photo 1

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Description

Colicroot (Aletris farinosa) is a herbaceous perennial in the Bog Asphodel Family (Nartheciaceae). It has a basal rosette of yellowy-green, lance-shaped leaves. In early summer, it produces an upright flowering stalk about 40 – 100 cm tall, with a spike of small, white flowers with a mealy texture. After flowering, the dried petals remain on the fruit capsules. Colicroot has been used to treat menstrual and uterine problems and contains active chemicals that may have hormonal properties. (Updated 2016/12/15)

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Distribution and Population

In Canada, Colicroot is restricted to four geographic regions in southwestern Ontario: the City of Windsor-Town of LaSalle; Walpole Island; near Eagle (Municipality of West Elgin); and is inferred to be extirpated near Turkey Point (Haldimand-Norfolk County). (Updated 2016/12/15)

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Habitat

Colicroot grows in open, moist, sandy ground associated with tallgrass prairie habitats and damp sandy meadows. It is currently found in prairie remnants, old fields, utility corridors, and woodland edges. It is intolerant of shading by surrounding vegetation. For habitat to remain suitable, some type of disturbance must occur to keep vegetation open, short, and sparse. Historically, fire probably maintained habitat but more recently, human activities, such as periodic mowing, cultivation, and the use of walking and bicycling trails, create disturbance in Colicroot habitat but keep habitat only marginally suitable. Loss of habitat due to succession is the number one cause of the decline of Colicroot and is an urgent threat. Habitat has also been lost to urban development, to construction of the Right Honourable Herb Gray Parkway (Parkway), and to conversion to agricultural use. Habitat in Parkway restoration sites and at some sites on Walpole Island is currently maintained by controlled burning and manual removal of woody and invasive species. However, habitat has been lost in Natural Heritage Areas and a provincial nature reserve, showing that Colicroot is not protected if management is not adequate. It is unknown whether habitat can be restored from a completely wooded state. (Updated 2016/12/15)

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Biology

Colicroot is perennial and some plants probably live for decades. The time required to reach maturity from seed is unknown but is likely more than one year and probably depends on site conditions. It is unknown how long seeds remain viable or if there is a seed bank in the soil. In addition to sexual reproduction, vegetative reproduction is possible but infrequent from buds on the rhizome. Thus, some plants in a patch may not be genetically distinct individuals. Flowers are insect-pollinated, mainly by bumblebees and solitary bees. It is unknown whether the flowers are self-fertile. It has been suggested that Colicroot may have mycorrhizal requirements because, until recently, most attempts to transplant the species were unsuccessful. However, greenhouse tests found no evidence that mycorrhizal fungi confer an advantage. Colicroot has no specialized structures to assist dispersal. Flowering stalks are frequently eaten by deer or other herbivores, and the leaves are sometimes eaten by insects. It is unknown whether herbivores can disperse seeds through the gut. (Updated 2016/12/15)

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Threats

Threats to Colicroot include 1) Lack of Disturbance, 2) Invasive Species, 3) Herbivory, and 4) Development. To maintain Colicroot, its habitat must be actively and frequently managed to arrest succession; most of the habitat isn’t managed this way, even in protected areas. Recreational activities may cause trampling but sometimes also provide necessary disturbance. It is unknown whether the net result is beneficial or detrimental. (Updated 2016/12/15)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Colicroot 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.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Colicroot (Aletris farinosa) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Documents

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.

10 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Colicroot Aletris farinosa in Canada (2016-10-13)

    Colicroot (Aletris farinosa) is a herbaceous perennial in the Bog Asphodel Family (Nartheciaceae). It has a basal rosette of yellowy-green, lance-shaped leaves. In early summer, it produces an upright flowering stalk about 40 – 100 cm tall, with a spike of small, white flowers with a mealy texture. After flowering, the dried petals remain on the fruit capsules. Colicroot has been used to treat menstrual and uterine problems and contains active chemicals that may have hormonal properties.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Colicroot (2017-01-11)

    This perennial herb is restricted to remnant, disturbance-dependent prairie habitats in southwestern Ontario. It continues to decline in the face of multiple threats, including habitat modification, invasive species, and browsing by deer. Prairie habitat, for example, naturally transitions to less suitable habitat types in the absence of periodic disturbance (e.g., fire), and its quality and extent are also vulnerable to ongoing urban and industrial development. Recent construction of a new transportation corridor caused the removal of more than 50% of all mature plants in the Canadian population and loss of habitat. Although plants have been transplanted from the transportation corridor to nearby restoration sites, it is too early to know whether these relocated subpopulations will be self-sustaining so they cannot yet be considered to contribute to the population.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Colicroot (Aletris farinosa) in Canada (2015-12-23)

    Colicroot (Aletris farinosa) is an herbaceous perennial in the lily family reaching up to 1 m in height with white, tubular flowers which arise from a basal rosette of pale green, lance-shaped leaves. Flowering occurs between late June and late July.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act: SI/2018-40 (2018-06-13)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of the assessments done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (Volume 153, Number 5, 2019) (2019-03-06)

    Biodiversity is rapidly declining worldwide as species become extinct. Today’s extinction rate is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural rate. Biodiversity is positively related to ecosystem productivity, health and resiliency (i.e. the ability of an ecosystem to respond to changes or disturbances), and, given the interdependency of species, a loss of biodiversity can lead to decreases in ecosystem function and services (e.g. natural processes such as pest control, pollination, coastal wave attenuation, temperature regulation and carbon fixing). These services are important to the health of Canadians, and also have important ties to Canada’s economy. Small changes within an ecosystem can lead to a loss of individuals and species resulting in adverse, irreversible and broad-ranging effects.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2015-2016 (2016-10-13)

    Over the past year COSEWIC re-examined the status of 25 wildlife species; of these, the majority (68%) were re-assessed at the same or lower level of risk. Of a total of 45 species assessed, seven were assigned a status of Not at Risk (two re-assessments and five new assessments). To date, and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 724 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 320 Endangered, 172 Threatened, 209 Special Concern, and 23 Extirpated (i.e., no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 15 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct, 54 wildlife species have been designated as Data Deficient, and 177 have been assessed and assigned Not at Risk status.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2006-06-01)

    Activities may include any of the following for any species: Collection of small amounts of seed (<1%) for propagation ex situ for the pupose of studying seed viability, germination condisions and rates. Collection of a mall proportion (<1%) of inflorescences or flowers for the purpose of determining fertility, seed predation rates, etc. Removal of a small number (<0.1%) of individuals of annual species (e.g. Agalinus spp.) for research on habitat and microsite requirements. Collection of seed for the purpose of propagation ex situ plants to provide material for research and/or for restoration projects. Mapping location, counting and setting up permanent study quadrats may sometime involve accidental trampling of some plants and portions of some habitat. This will be kept to a minimum. Some perturbation of habitat may occur during removal of invasive species. Some experimental purturbation of habitat for restoration purposes may be done in locations where species at risk are thought to be extirpated.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species - January 2017 (2017-01-16)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 521 wildlife species at risk. In 2016, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, the Governor in Council approved listing proposals for 44 wildlife species. It is proposed that 23 species be added to Schedule 1, 18 be reclassified or have a change made to how they are defined (two wildlife species are being split into four), one species  be removed from Schedule 1, and another two species not be added. Listing proposals were published in Canada Gazette, part I for a 30-day public comment period and final listing decisions for all 44 species are expected in the first half of 2017.Please submit your comments byMay 11, 2017, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultationsand byOctober 11, 2017, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please see:Minister of Environment response to COSEWIC species at risk assessments: October 13, 2016 The COSEWIC Summaries of Terrestrial Species Eligible for Addition or Reclassification on Schedule 1 - January 2017

Related Information

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) Listing Plan 2016 to 2018 (2017-09-29)

    The status of wildlife species is assessed by an independent panel of expert Canadian scientists, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). 149 terrestrial species were assessed as at-risk by COSEWIC between 2009 and 2016 and are eligible for listing under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) to be considered by the Governor-in-Council (GIC) on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment: 86 species would be new additions, 54 currently listed species would be reclassified and 9 species would be updated to reflect changes in their recognized designatable units. A three-year listing plan has been developed to address all 149 terrestrial species and listing decisions for most species are anticipated by the end of 2018. Making amendments to Schedule 1 of SARA is a two-step process. The first step is for the GIC to propose an amendment through an order in council published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for a 30-day public comment period. The second step is for the GIC to make a final decision on whether or not to make amendments to Schedule 1 of SARA, taking into consideration comments received during the 30-day public comment period. The amendments are made through an order in council published in the Canada Gazette, Part II. Both orders are accompanied by a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) which presents the implications of listing the species or changing their status. Publishing this plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency about the Government of Canada’s plan to make listing decisions under the Species at Risk Act. NOTE: The information presented below is intended to provide openness and transparency with respect to when terrestrial species might be considered for listing under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. It is intended to assist anyone who may wish to provide comments on such listing considerations. Given any number of factors can affect the timing of a listing decision; the Plan is subject to change. Accordingly, the Plan will be periodically updated.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    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 December 2, 2021
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