Aletris farinosa flowers Troy Weldy

Aletris farinosa flowers
Troy Weldy

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Liliaceae (Lily Family)
State Protection
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Global Conservation Status Rank


Did you know?

Stargrass is a medicinal plant and root preparations have been used to treat stomach and other problems, thus the name colic-root (Elliott 1995).

State Ranking Justification

There are 13 known populations but at least four of them are very small and subject to succession and other disturbances. There are about 10 records from the early 1900s that have not been searched. Some have been extirpated but some may be rediscovered because there is plenty of habitat still available.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trend appears stable but many occurrences have not been rechecked since the early 1990s.

Long-term Trends

There has been a moderate decline in sites and numbers in the past 50 years as development, especially on western Long Island has grown. The present larger sites should remain for the forseeable future.

Conservation and Management


A variety of disturbances and human activities threaten this species. The plant sometimes occur close to trails or sand roads and are threatened by being run over, mowed, or trampled. Road construction and housing developments as well as dumping have threatened populations. The open areas where the plants occur are also threatened by succession of the natural habitat to trees and shrubs.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

A buffer needs to be established around the plants so they are not directly impacted by human threats and succession needs to be kept at an herbaceous stage that does not outcompete the plants.

Research Needs

We would like to know how and in what form this species survives succession.



In New York, Stargrass is known from open, often wet areas within pine barrens and pine-oak forests, coastal plain pond margins, and sandy shorelines (New York Natural Heritage Program 2010). Rare in moist clearings (Rhoads and Block 2000). Sandy soil, open woods, and barrens (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). In moist or sometimes dry, usually sandy or sandy-mucky soil, on lake shores and in swales, meadows, clearings, and abandoned fields (Voss 1972). Dry or moist peats, sands, and gravels (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Coastal plain pond shore (guide)
  • Hempstead Plains grassland (guide)
  • Maritime grassland (guide)
  • Pitch pine-oak forest (guide)
  • Pitch pine-scrub oak barrens (guide)
  • Successional northern sandplain grassland

Associated Species

  • Agalinis setacea (needle-leaved agalinis)
  • Andropogon glomeratus
  • Andropogon virginicus
  • Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass)
  • Baptisia sp.
  • Bartonia virginica (Virginia screwstem)
  • Calamagrostis cinnoides (small reed grass)
  • Carex barrattii (Barratt's sedge)
  • Carex bullata (button sedge)
  • Carex swanii (Swan's sedge)
  • Chrysopsis mariana (Maryland golden-aster)
  • Clethra alnifolia (coastal sweet-pepperbush)
  • Comptonia peregrina (sweet-fern)
  • Dicanthelium spp.
  • Dichanthelium sp.
  • Drosera intermedia (spatulate-leaved sundew)
  • Drosera rotundifolia (round-leaved sundew)
  • Eupatorium pilosum (ragged thoroughwort)
  • Eurybia spectabilis (showy-aster)
  • Euthamia tenuifolia
  • Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
  • Hypericum canadense (lesser Canadian St. John's-wort)
  • Hypericum sp.
  • Hypoxis hirsuta (yellow star-grass)
  • Juncus canadensis (Canada rush)
  • Juncus effus
  • Lechea sp.
  • Lespedeza cuneata (Asian bush-clover)
  • Linum sp.
  • Liquidambar styraciflua (sweet-gum)
  • Lobelia nuttallii (Nuttall's lobelia)
  • Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
  • Myrica sp.
  • Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
  • Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
  • Platanthera blephariglottis
  • Platanthera lacera (ragged fringed orchid)
  • Polygala nuttallii (Nuttall's milkwort)
  • Prenanthes sp.
  • Prunella vulgaris
  • Quercus alba (white oak)
  • Rhynchospora capillacea (hair beak sedge)
  • Rhynchospora capitellata (brownish beak sedge)
  • Rubus hispidus (swamp dewberry)
  • Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Scirpus hattorianus (mosquito bulrush)
  • Scleria minor (slender nut sedge)
  • Scleria triglomerata (whip nut sedge)
  • Solidago nemoralis
  • Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass)
  • Spiranthes cernua (nodding ladies'-tresses)
  • Spiranthes tuberosa (little ladies'-tresses)
  • Symphyotrichum lateriflorum (calico-aster)
  • Vaccinium angustifolium (common lowbush blueberry)
  • Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)


New York State Distribution

This species is currently known from Long Island, mainly the pine barrens of Suffolk County, but also from Nassau County. It is historically known from the New York City area and Staten Island where it is considered extirpated. There is also an 1837 record from Manlius, near Syracuse but no specimen to confirm the report.

Global Distribution

This species grows south from New England and southern Canada to Florida and west through Texas.

Best Places to See

  • Connetquot River State Park (Suffolk County)

Identification Comments

General Description

Stargrass is a perennial herb with a basal rosette of broad, grass-like leaves. From this base arises a central stalk. The top portion of the stalk bears an infloresence of many nearly sessile flowers. The flowers are white, with mostly fused petals from 7 to 10 millimeters long.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Stargrass is likely most obvious when in flower, but may also be identified when in fruit or even from its basal rosettes.

Similar Species

The combination of a basal rosette of flat, leathery leaves, and the central raceme of small white flowers are distinctive in New York.

Best Time to See

Vegetative leaves are visible year-round. If the plant flowers, the flowers appear between early June to mid-July. The fruits often persist until after the first hard frost.

  • Vegetative
  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Stargrass vegetative, flowering, and fruiting in New York.

Stargrass Images


Aletris farinosa L.

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
        • Order Liliales
          • Family Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Ague
  • Colic-root
  • Unicorn-root

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

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.

Other References

Clemants, Steven and Carol Gracie. 2006. Wildflowers in the Field and Forest. A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. 445 pp.

Elliott, D. 1995. Wild Roots: A Forager's Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Roots, Tubers, Corms, and Rhizomes of North America. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont. Pp. 30-31.

Fernald, M. L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. Corrected printing (1970). D. Van Nostrand Company, New York. 1632 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.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. 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.

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 University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: February 23, 2011

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Aletris farinosa. Available from: Accessed March 20, 2019.

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