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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. intermontana T. Wendt

Subshrub, shrub, stiffly branched, ± open, < 10 dm high (or forming thorny mats 1.5–5 dm high, generally < 10 dm diam)
Stem: twig hairs dense, white, appressed to irregularly ascending
Leaf 3–25 mm, linear to obovate; hairs incurved or appressed
Inflorescence thorn-tipped; flowers 1–7; pedicels 2.5–9 mm, glabrous
Flower 2.5–5.2 mm; outer sepals glabrous or ciliate, sometimes with incurved hairs near tip, wings cream or greenish; beak of keel-petal 0 or minute
Fruit 3.5–5.8 mm
Chromosomes: n=9
Ecology: Pinyon/juniper woodland
Elevation: 2600–2700 m.
Bioregional distribution: East of Sierra Nevada (n Mono Co.)
Distribution outside California: to Utah, n Arizona
Flowering time: May–Aug
Synonyms: P. acanthoclada var. intricata Eastw
See the CNPS Inventory for information about endangerment and rarity.
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