Jepson eFlora: Taxon page
Key to families | Table of families and genera
Previous taxon Index to accepted names and synonyms:
| A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |
Next taxon
Polygala californica

Higher Taxonomy
Family: PolygalaceaeView Description 

Habit: [Annual] perennial herb, subshrub, shrub [tree, vine]; hairs unbranched. Leaf: simple, generally alternate (opposite or whorled); veins pinnate; margin generally +- entire; stipules generally 0. Inflorescence: raceme, spike, or panicle. Flower: bisexual, generally bilateral and +- pea-flower-like [or +- radial]; sepals 5, fused or not, lateral or inner pair generally larger and petal-like (called wings); petals 5[3], fused to stamen tube, [+- similar or] different with 1 lower keel petal, 2 strap-like upper petals, and 2[0] lateral petals; stamens 3--10, +- fused, tube open at top; ovary chambers 1--8 with 1 ovule each, style 1 or 0. Fruit: capsule [drupe or nut; occasionally winged]. Seed: often with aril.
Genera In Family: 20 genera, 1000 species: especially tropics, subtropics few cultivated.
eFlora Treatment Author: Robert E. Preston & Thomas L. Wendt
Scientific Editor: Bruce G. Baldwin.
Genus: PolygalaView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Common Name: MILKWORT
Habit: 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.
Species In Genus: +- 500 species: tropics, temperate. Etymology: (Greek: much milk, some European species said to increase milk in cows)

Polygala californica Nutt.
Habit: Perennial herb, generally from rhizome. Stem: generally decumbent, 0.5--3.5 dm. Leaf: 7--60 mm, lanceolate or elliptic to (ob)ovate. Inflorescence: thornless. Flower: open flowers 9--14.5 mm, or +- cleistogamous flowers 2.5--5 mm and occasionally present in separate, generally basal raceme; sepal wings ciliate, tip occasionally puberulent, pink (white); keel petal beak 1.2--3 mm, notched or contorted (entire) below, +- 0.7--1 mm diam near tip, yellow or white when pollen shed. Fruit: 4.5--10.5 mm including stalk, green. Seed: 3.5--6 mm including hairs; aril glabrous. Chromosomes: 2n=18.
Ecology: Coastal prairie and forest, chaparral, occasionally on serpentine; Elevation: 10--1400 m. Bioregional Distribution: NW, CW (exc SCoRI), n ChI; Distribution Outside California: southwestern Oregon. Flowering Time: Apr--Jul
eFlora Treatment Author: Robert E. Preston & Thomas L. Wendt
Jepson Online Interchange

Previous taxon: Polygala acanthoclada
Next taxon: Polygala cornuta

Name Search
botanical illustration including Polygala californica


Citation for this treatment: Robert E. Preston & Thomas L. Wendt 2017. Polygala californica, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 29, 2017.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2017. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on May 29, 2017.

Polygala californica
click for enlargement
© 2003 Keir Morse
Polygala californica
click for enlargement
© 2003 Keir Morse
Polygala californica
click for enlargement
© 2003 Keir Morse

More photos of Polygala californica in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Polygala californica:
NW, CW (exc SCoRI), n ChI;
Markers link to CCH specimen records. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues. Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).

View elevation by latitude chart
Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
View all CCH records

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time.