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Polygalaceae: Milkwort Family Plant Identification Characteristics.

Plants of the
Milkwort Family

      Flowers of the Milkwort family look superficially like those of the Pea family, but there are some significant differences. Milkwort flowers are irregular and bisexual. There are 5 sepals-but usually 3 green outer sepals and 2 petal-like inner sepals. There are 3 (sometimes 5) united petals, usually fused with the stamens, and the lower petal is often fringed. There are 8 (sometimes fewer) stamens, fused to the petals. The ovary is positioned superior. It consists of 2 (rarely 5) united carpels with the partition walls present, forming an equal number of chambers. It matures as a capsule, nut, or drupe (a fleshy fruit with a stony seed.)

      Worldwide, there are about 17 genera and 850 species in the Milkwort family. The genera below are found in North America. Milkworts are found in patchy distribution mostly across the southern states.

Key Words: Irregular flowers with milky stems.

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Polygala alba. White Milkwort.

Polygala alba. White Milkwort.

Polygala alba. White Milkwort.

Polygala alba. White Milkwort.

Polygala myrtifolia. Myrtle-leaf Milkwort.

Polygala myrtifolia Myrtle-leaf Milkwort is native to South Africa, but widely planted and sometimes naturalized in Mediterranean climates around the world.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West

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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Botany in a Day
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