Saturday, October 19, 2013

Coastal Plain Milkwort - Polygala setacea

Coastal plain milkwort (Polygala setacea) is a diminutive species that is fairly easy to overlook during its summer-fall blooming season.  Native to most of Florida, and north up the Southeast Coastal Plain to North Carolina, it is resident to moist pine flatwoods, open savannas and prairies.  The flowers pictured here were found at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, just north of Lake Okeechobee in mid-October. 
Like most other members of this genus, it is an annual. Its slender stems reach a mature height of 6-12 inches, and rise above small basal leaves.  The narrow raceme of white flowers is no more than 1/2 inch long. The flower structure is very similar to that of other milkworts; the bright yellow anthers are obvious as they extrude from the open blooms.
This is a plant that is common in the right habitat, but often goes unnoticed.  The blooming season is several months earlier in more northern regions of its range. Look for it as you hike the type of moist open areas where so many other milkworts also reside.

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