Seneca snakeroot

(Polygala senega)

Conservation Status
Seneca snakeroot
 
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N4? - Apparently Secure

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
Wetland Indicator Status
     
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland

     
  Midwest

FACU - Facultative upland

     
  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland

     
           
 
Description
 
 

Seneca snakeroot is a common small wildflower. It occurs in the eastern United States and across Canada. In Minnesota it occurs in the northwest, central, and southeast regions and is mostly absent from the northeast and southwest regions. It is found in woodlands and prairies, on lake shores and river banks, along railroads and roadsides, and in other disturbed sites. It grows under full or partial sun in dry or moderately moist, loamy or rocky, often limey (calcareous) soil.

Seneca snakeroot is a 4 to 20 tall, erect or curved up from the base, perennial forb that rises on several stems from a taproot and fibrous roots. The taproot is dark brown, twisted, up to 5 (15 cm) long, and up to ½ wide. It is somewhat woody and often purplish toward the top. The rootstock spreads horizontally and usually has a cluster of several to many stems rising from it.

The stems are erect, round, unbranched, yellowish- or whitish-green, and often reddish-purple near the base. They are moderately to densely covered with inconspicuous, minute, curved hairs, at least toward the top.

The leaves are alternate, to 2¾ (15 to 70 mm) long, and to 1 (4 to 35 mm) wide. They are on short, 116to (2 to 3 mm) long leaf stalks. The leaf blades are narrowly lance-shaped, narrowly egg-shaped, or narrowly oval and widest in the middle (elliptic). The upper and lower surfaces are mostly hairless but may have a very few scattered hairs. The margins have minute, sharp, closely-spaced, forward pointing teeth.

The inflorescence is a dense, spike-like, to 2 (1.5 to 5 cm) long, unbranched cluster (raceme) at the end of each stem. The central axis of the raceme is covered with minute hairs. The flowers bloom from the bottom to the top.

The flowers are about wide. There are 5 outer floral leaves (sepals), 3 petals, 8 stamens, and 1 style. The upper sepal and lower pair of sepals are small and whitish-green. The lateral pair of sepals, referred to as wings, are petal-like, white, elliptic to nearly circular, and much larger, (3.0 to 3.7 mm) long. They are cupped, completely enclosing the corolla at first, then spreading widely as the flower matures. The petals are fused into a white, hairless, (2 to 3 mm) long tube. The lower petal (appearing central and referred to as the keel) is often fringed at the tip. The stamens have yellow anthers. The stalks of the stamens (filaments) are fused together. The style has 2 lobes near the tip. The upper lobe has a cap-like stigma. The lower lobe is sterile and has a fringe of hairs.

The fruit is a 116to (2.5 to 4.2 mm) long, almost orb-shaped capsule. It is somewhat flattened and shallowly notched at the tip.

 
     
 

Height

 
 

4 to 20

 
     
 

Flower Color

 
 

White

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Dry to moist. Woodlands, prairies, lake shores, river banks, railroads, roadsides and other disturbed sites. Full or partial sun. Loamy or rocky, often calcareous soil.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Flowering

 
 

May to June

 
     
 
Use
 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.

 
  7/2/2020      
         
 

Nativity

 
 

Native

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  
 

Order

Fabales (legumes, milkworts, and allies)  
 

Family

Polygalaceae (milkwort)  
  Tribe Polygaleae  
 

Genus

Polygala (milkwort)  
       
 

Subordinate Taxa

 
 

 

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Polygala senega var. latifolia

Polygala senega var. senega

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

Seneca snakeroot

senega snakeroot

senga-root

sengaroot

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Ascending

Growing upward at an angle or curving upward from the base.

 

Corolla

A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.

 

Elliptic

Narrowly oval, broadest at the middle, narrower at both ends, with the ends being equal.

 

Filament

On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.

 

Raceme

An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.

 

Sepal

An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

       
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Clustered stems rising from a single horizontally spreading rootstock

  Seneca snakeroot   Seneca snakeroot
       
  Seneca snakeroot    
       

Single stem

  Seneca snakeroot   Seneca snakeroot
       

Inflorescence

  Seneca snakeroot   Seneca snakeroot
       
       

 

Camera

     
Slideshows
   
  Polygala senaga SENECA SNAKEROOT
Frank Mayfield
 
  Polygala senaga SENECA SNAKEROOT  
     

 

slideshow

       
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Created: 7/3/2020

Last Updated:

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