True Unicorn – Aletris farinosa

Overall At-Risk Score: 46

Latin Name:

Aletris farinosa (L.)

Common Name:

True Unicorn Root; White Colicroot

Family:

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Geographic Region:

Found on much of the Atlantic coast and near Lake Michigan, but still has sparse populations in inland states.
AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MS,NC,NH,NJ,NY,OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, WV¹

Habitat:

Found in sandy prairies and savannahs, this plant requires full sun exposure and very limited competition.³

Lifespan:

Perennial;

Reproduction:

Flowering through most of the summer, A. farinosa extends a flowering stock up to a meter above the sandy soil. Blooming in a long spike of white, tubular blooms that become similarly shaped seed pods fill with many small seeds.³
Blooms May through August

Ability to withstand disturbance and over harvest:

Vulnerable to herbivory from deer and rodents. Being a member of open grasslands, this plant depends on regular fire cycles to prevent overcrowding and tree encroachment.

Status of Endangered/Threatened(by state):

Unicorn Root is protected in New York and Rhode Island, and endangered in Pennsylvania¹

Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:

The root is made into a tonic and taken orally. It’s used as a sedative and a digestive aid.

Vulnerability of habitat/changes of habitat quality and availability:

Grasslands and prairies are often targets of agricultural development, fragmenting and reducing habitat quality. Another major issue for this plant is fire suppression, because without regular fires, a grassland will quickly become crowded with shrubs and trees.

Demand and Relative Acreage Needed to Meet Demand:

Wild Harvesting Impact On Other Species:

Recommendations for industrial and home use:

Herbalists should try to rely on farm-grown and sustainably harvested A. farinos. Cultivation of this species is relatively simple for the average gardener.

    1. USDA Plants. Aletris farinosa.
      https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=alfa2
    2. ITIS Report. Aletris farinosa.
      https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=42769#null
    3. John Filty. IllinoisWildflowers.info . Colic Root.
      http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/prairie/plantx/colic_root.html
    4. University of Texas at Austin. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
      Aletris farinosa.
      https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=alfa2
    5. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. 2017. Recovery Strategy for the Colicroot (Aletris farinosa) in Ontario. Ontario Recovery Strategy Series.  https://files.ontario.ca/coli_rs_may5-2017_merged.pdf
    6. WebMD. Aletris.
      https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-605/aletris