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Key to families | Table of families and genera

Specimen numbers are hyperlinked to records in the Consortium of California Herbaria data view where possible. Taxa are hyperlinked to entries in the Jepson Interchange via the "[Online Interchange]" link.


Root odor generally wintergreen. Inflorescence: raceme or spike, occasionally grouped and panicle-like; cleistogamous flowers occasionally solitary. Flower: bilateral; lateral 2 sepals enlarged; petals 3 or 5, keel petal generally with cylindric beak or fringed crest at tip; stamens 6–8, anthers dehiscent at tip, appearing 1-chambered; with nectary disk or gland; ovary chambers 2, stigma 2-lobed. Fruit: capsule. Seed: fusiform or ovoid, black, generally hairy, generally with prominent white aril on 1 end.
± 500 species: tropics, temperate. (Greek: much milk, some European species said to increase milk in cows) [Wendt 1979 J Arnold Arbor 60:504–514]

Key to Polygala

1. Inflorescence thornless

2. Flowers 2.5–5 mm, ± cleistogamous, keel petal beakless ..... P. californica (2)

2' At least some flowers > 7 mm, opening, keel petal beaked

3. Flower 9–14.5 mm (occasionally 2.5–5 mm cleistogamous flowers near plant base), keel petal beak oblong, generally notched or contorted, ± 0.7–1 mm diam near tip; aril glabrous ..... P. californica (2)

3' Flower 7–14 mm, of 1 kind, keel petal beak linear, entire, ± 0.2 mm diam near tip; aril hairy ..... P. cornuta

4. Flower 8.5–14 mm, wings dense-puberulent; upper sepal generally acute to acuminate ..... var. cornuta

4' Flower 7–11.2 mm, wings generally ciliate, surface glabrous or puberulent only near tip; upper sepal generally rounded to obtuse ..... var. fishiae

1' Inflorescence thorn-tipped

5. Flower 2.5–5.3 mm, wings cream or ± green; twigs densely hairy

6. Pedicels, outer sepals, and leaves spreading-hairy ..... P. acanthoclada

6' Pedicels glabrous; outer sepals glabrous or ciliate, occasionally sparsely hairy near tip; leaf hairs incurved or appressed ..... P. intermontana

5' Flower 6–13.5 mm, wings pink; twigs glabrous to short-stiff-hairy

7. Keel petal beak prominently notched below; seeds hairier near aril ..... P. heterorhyncha

7' Keel petal beak entire or ± jagged; seeds generally evenly hairy ..... P. subspinosa


Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) [year] Jepson eFlora, [accessed on month, day, year]
Citation for an individual treatment: [Author of taxon treatment] [year]. [Taxon name] in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora, [URL for treatment]. Accessed on [month, day, year].
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