Jepson eFlora: Taxon page
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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
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botanical illustration including Polygala californica


Citation for this treatment: Robert E. Preston & Thomas L. Wendt 2016. Polygala californica, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 29, 2016.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2016. Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 29, 2016.

Polygala californica
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© 2008 Keir Morse
Polygala californica
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© 2004 Aaron Schusteff
Polygala californica
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© 2003 Keir Morse
Polygala californica
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© 2009 Neal Kramer
Polygala californica
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© 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. If the markers are obscured, reload the page [or change window size and reload]. Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.
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).

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Data provided by the participants of the Consortium of California Herbaria.
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CCH collections by month

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