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POLYGALACEAE

MILKWORT FAMILY

Thomas L. Wendt

Annual, perennial herb, shrub, tree, vine, some non-green, dependent on fungi for nutrition; hairs unbranched
Leaves simple, generally alternate (rarely opposite or whorled); veins pinnate; margin generally ± entire; stipules generally 0
Inflorescence: raceme, spike, or panicle
Flower bisexual, generally bilateral (appearing ± pea-flower-like) or ± radial; sepals 5, free or fused, lateral (inner) pair often larger and petal-like (wings); petals 5 or 3, individually fused to stamen tube, ± similar or different with 1 lower keel petal, 2 strap-like upper petals, and 0 or 2 small lateral petals; stamens 3–10, ± fused, tube open on upper side; ovary chambers 1–8, ovule 1 per chamber, style 1 or 0
Fruit: capsule, drupe, or nut, sometimes winged
Seed often with aril
Genera in family: 18 genera, 800 species: especially tropical, subtropical; very few cultivated
Reference: [Blake 1924 N Amer Fl 25:305–379]

POLYGALA

MILKWORT

Annual, perennial herb, shrub, tree, vine; roots generally with wintergreen odor
Inflorescence: raceme or spike, sometimes grouped and panicle-like
Flower bilateral; lateral 2 sepals enlarged as wings; petals 3 or 5, keel petal often with cylindric beak or fringed crest at tip; stamens 6–8, anthers dehiscent at tip, appearing 1-chambered; nectary disk or gland present; ovary chambers 2, stigma 2-lobed
Fruit: capsule
Seed fusiform or ovoid, black, generally hairy, generally with prominent white aril on one end
Species in genus: ± 500 species: tropical, temp
Etymology: (Greek: much milk, some Eur species said to increase milk flow in cows)
Reference: [Wendt 1979 J Arnold Arbor 60:504–514]

Native

P. californica Nutt.

Perennial, often from rhizomes
Stem generally decumbent, 0.5–3.5 dm
Leaf 7–60 mm, ovate to obovate
Inflorescence thornless
Flower 9–14.5 mm; sepal wings ciliate, sometimes puberulent near tip, pink or rarely white; beak of keel-petal 1.2–3 mm, lower side notched or contorted (rarely entire), 0.7–1 mm diam near tip, yellow or white when pollen shed; ± cleistogamous flowers (2.5–5 mm) often present in separate, generally basal racemes
Fruit 4.5–10.5 mm including prominent stalk, thin-textured, green; veins prominent
Seed 3.5–6 mm including hairs; aril glabrous
Chromosomes: n=9
Ecology: Exposed slopes, chaparral, forests
Elevation: 10–1400 m.
Bioregional distribution: Northwestern California, Central Western California, n Channel Islands
Distribution outside California: sw Oregon
Horticultural information: 5, 17; SHD: 15, 16 &IRR: 7, 14, 22, 23, 24.

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