Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Swamp Milkwort - Polygala appendiculata

As its name implies, swamp milkwort (Polygala appendiculata) is a wetland species, vouchered in Florida only in seven counties in the extreme northern part of the state.  It also is reported in Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and Texas as well as Mexico, the West Indies, and portions of Central and South America.  This is most definitely not a plant suited for below-freezing temperatures.  Throughout its extensive range, it occurs in savannas, pastures, bogs, open wet pine woods, and pond margins.

Like other members of this genus, it is considered to be an annual.  Slender stems emerge in the early spring and reach a mature height of about 18 inches.  The narrow linear leaves are appressed on the stems and alternate along it.  Flowering occurs at the tips of these stems in late spring to early summer.  The blooms are often a pinkish lavender (as they appear in these photos), but can be white or a deeper purple.  Each of these flowers are tiny - no more then 1/4-inch long, but they atttract the attention of small bees and other pollinators.  Small brownish seed capsules result from pollination.

Swamp milkwort is one of 22 species of milkworts native to Florida. Because they are annuals and habitat specific, even the showier members are not often offered for sale by native plant nurseries.  That is especially true for this species.  Despite that, it is an interesting species and should be looked for in various wetland habitats during its blooming season.

These photos were taken by Steve Coleman and used by permission.


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