racemed milkwort

(Polygala polygama)

Conservation Status
racemed milkwort
Photo by Nancy Falkum
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
Wetland Indicator Status
     
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland

     
  Midwest

FACU - Facultative upland

     
  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland

     
           
 
Description
 
 

Racemed milkwort is a common native wildflower. It occurs in the eastern United States from Maine to Florida west to Minnesota and Texas, and in Canada in southern Quebec and Ontario. In Minnesota it is most common in the eastern third of the state. It is found in upland open woodlands and woodland openings, in savannas and abandoned fields, and on sand dunes and roadsides. It grows under full or partial sun in moderately moist to dry areas on sandy soil.

Racemed milkwort is a 4 to 10 (10 to 25 cm) tall, erect, biennial forb that rises on a compact cluster of multiple stems from a deep, slender taproot. The plant form is variable. The stems may be erect, curve up from the base (ascending), or lay on the ground with only the tip ascending (decumbent). They are leafy, green, hairless and sharply angled but not square. They are unbranched at flowering time then sparingly branched in fruit.

The leaves are alternate and crowded on the stems. Lowest leaves are (1 cm) long, spoon-shaped to egg-shaped, and widest beyond the middle. Stem leaves are to 1¼ (1 to 3 cm) long and 116 to ¼ (2 to 7 mm) wide. They are stalkless and ascending to widely spreading. The leaf blades are narrow and inversely egg-shaped or inversely oblong lance-shaped. They have a single prominent vein and may be pointed, blunt, or rounded at the tip. The upper and lower surfaces are hairless. The margins are untoothed.

Two types of flowers are produced: open, cross-pollinated (chasmogamous) flowers; and closed, self-fertilizing (cleistogamous) flowers.

The inflorescence is a loose, open, narrow, spike-like, ¾ to 4 (2 to 10 cm) long, unbranched cluster (raceme) at the end of each stem. Each flower is on a 116to (1.5 to 3.5 mm) long stalk (pedicel). There are sometimes a few cleistogamous flowers at the bottom of this raceme. There are also a few white cleistogamous flowers that rise from an underground raceme.

Individual flowers are to ¼ long. There are 5 outer floral leaves (sepals), 3 petals, 8 stamens, and 1 style. The upper sepal and lower two sepals are small and green or whitish-green. The lateral two sepals are petal-like and are referred to as wings. The wings are rose-purple to white, to ¼ (4 to 6 mm) long, and widest near the tip. The petals are rose-purple to white and are fused into a U-shaped tube, open on one side, around the stamens and style, and separated at the tip into three lobes. The lateral two lobes, structurally the upper lobes, are similar. The central lobe, structurally the lower lobe and referred to as the keel, is boat-shaped and fringed. The stamens have yellow anthers. The stalks of the stamens (filaments) are fused into a tube which is fused to the keel. 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 pale, 116to (3 to 4 mm) long, egg-shaped capsule.

 
     
 

Height

 
 

4 to 10 (10 to 25 cm)

 
     
 

Flower Color

 
 

Rose-purple to white.

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Moderately moist to dry. Upland open woodlands, woodland openings, savannas, abandoned fields, sand dunes, and roadsides. Full or partial sun. Sandy soil.

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Flowering

 
 

June to August

 
     
 

Pests and Diseases

 
 

 

 
     
 
Use
 
 

 

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

2, 3, 4, 5, 24, 28, 29, 30.

 
  12/6/2021      
         
 

Nativity

 
 

Native

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

 

 
         
 
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

 
 

Some authorities, including Gleason & Cronquist, recognize two or three varieties. Of these, only Polygala polygama var. obtusata occurs in Minnesota. It is the northern variety and has a slightly denser raceme. The varieties are not widely accepted and are treated by most authorities as synonyms

 
 

purple milkwort (Polygala polygama var. obtusata)

racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama var. polygama)

racemed milkwort (Polygala polygama var. ramulosa)

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Anthalogea polygama

Polygala aboriginum

Polygala polygama var. obtusata

Polygala polygama var. polygama

Polygala polygama var. ramulosa

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

bitter milkwort

purple milkwort

racemed milkwort

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Ascending

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

 

Cleistogamous

Automatically self-pollinating. Refers to bud-like flowers that do not open but automatically self-pollinate, or to plants with such flowers.

 

Decumbent

Reclining on the ground but with the tip ascending.

 

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.

 

Pedicel

On plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. On insects: the second segment of the antenna. On Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen: the preferred term is petiole.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
Visitor Photos
 
           
 

Share your photo of this plant.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.
 
 

Nancy Falkum

 
    racemed milkwort      
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
 

 

 
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
P. polygama
Joshua Mayer
  P. polygama  
 
About

Sand / Purple / Racemed Milkwort

 

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

Share your video of this plant.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.
 
 

 

 
     
     
       
       
 
Other Videos
 
     
     
     

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this plant.

 
  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at info@MinnesotaSeasons.com.
Be sure to include a location.
 
  Nancy Falkum
7/22/2021

Location: Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA, Weaver Dunes Unit

racemed milkwort

 
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
 

 

 

 

 

Binoculars


Created: 12/6/2021

Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © 2022 MinnesotaSeasons.com. All rights reserved.