Galactia elliottii

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Galactia elliottii
Gala elli.jpg
Photo by Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae ⁄ Leguminosae
Genus: Galactia
Species: G. elliottii
Binomial name
Galactia elliottii
Gala elli dist.jpg
Natural range of Galactia elliottii from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common name: Elliott's milkpea

Taxonomic notes


G. elliottii is a perennial, viney, herbacious legume. Leaves are alternate and petiolate with inconspicuous, green stipules.[1] It is a nitrogen fixing plant. [2]

Generally, the genus Galactia are "trailing or twining, climbing, perennial, herbaceous or woody vines or erect, perennial herbs or rarely shrubs. Leaves 1-pinnate, usually 3-foliolate (or rarely 1-,5-7-,9-folilolate); leaflets entire, petiolulate, stipellate. Racemes axillary, pedunculate with few to numerous, papilionaceous flowers borne solitary or 2-several at a node, ech subtended by a bract and fusion of the 2 uppermost, with the laterals usually shorter than the uppermost and lowermost; petals usually red, purple, pink or white; stamens diadelphous or elsewhere occasionally monadelphous; ovary sessile or shortly stipitate. Legume oblong-linear to linear, few-many seeded, compressed, straight or slightly curbed, dehiscent with often laterally twisting valves.[3]

Specifically, for Galactia elliottii they are "twining, climbing herbaceous vine or somewhat woody at base with sparsely to densely, antrorsely, retrorsely or spreading, strigillose to hirsute stems, 0.51-.5 m long. Leaves pinnately 7-9 foliolate; leaflets oblong to elliptic, 2-4 cm long, sparsely appressed short-pubescent to glabrous above and moderately to densely strigillose beneath. Racemes with peduncles and rachises sparsely to densely, retrorsely, strigillose to somewhat spreading hirsute, 5-20 cm long; flowers 1-3 at each node on usually densely and retrorsely short-hirsute pedicels 1-2.5 mm long. Calyx appressed to somewhat spreading strigillose to short-pilose, tube ca. 3 mm lon, lobes 7-10 mm long; petals white or tinged with red, the standard 1.2-1.5 cm long. Legume 3.5-5 cm long, 5-8 cm long, 5-8 mm broad, densely appressed- tomentose."[3]


It is native to South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.[4]



In the Coastal Plain in Florida, G. elliottii can be found in pine flatwoods, sandy scrub, dry pine woods, and mesic transition zones between scrubs and seepage forests. In disturbed areas it has been found in railroad gravel and in coarse sandy roadsides amongst grasses. [5] It is often found in Spodosol soils. [4] Associated species include Croton glandulosus, Paspalum notatum, and Sporobolus virginicus. [5]

Many legume species are light sensitive, yield decreases as shade increases. However, G. elliottii possesses and adaptation to shade by producing more herbage and seed under partial shade than full sunlight. [6]

G. elliottii is a nitrogen fixing legume and requires relatively high concentrations of other nutrients such as phosphorus and iron. [7] Phosphorus has been found to enhance yield of herbage and roots. [6]


The white flowers have diadelphous stamens, and can be observed blooming May, June, August, and September.[8][5][9]

G. elliottii naturally senescences during autumn months, this is a grazing management strategy to defer autumn grazing allowing depleted plants to restore vigour. [10] It has been found to not be tolerant of repeated defoliation because this species persists primarily through survival of individual plants and vegetative propagation.

Fire ecology

In fire suppressed scrubby flatwoods, it can become overgrown and be a dominant understory species. [11] Schmalzer and Hinkle[12] found that G. elliottii has a seasonal response to fire, present in June (6 and 18 months postburn) and not in winter.


The following Hymenoptera families and species were observed visiting flowers of Galactia elliottii at Archbold Biological Station. [13]

Halictidae: Halictus poeyi, Nomia maneei

Megachilidae: Anthidiellum notatum rufomaculatum, Megachile exilis parexilis, M. georgica, M. mendica, M. petulans

Conservation and management

Cultivation and restoration

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. [Encyclopedia of Life]Accessed December 11, 2015
  2. Stiling, Peter et al.. “Elevated CO₂ Lowers Relative and Absolute Herbivore Density Across All Species of a Scrub-oak Forest”. Oecologia 134.1 (2003): 82–87.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. 1964, 1968. The University of North Carolina Press. 643-4. Print.
  4. 4.0 4.1 J. P. Muir, and W. D. Pitman. “Improving Germination Rate of the Florida Legume Galactia Elliottii”. Journal of Range Management 40.5 (1987): 452–454
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: October 2015. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, Edwin L. Bridges, R.K. Godfrey, Ed Keppner, Lisa Keppner, Robert A. Norris, Steve L. Orzell. States and Counties: Florida: Bay, Highlands, Nassau, Polk, St. Johns, Taylor, Volusia. Compiled by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Muir, J. P. and W. D. Pitman (1989). "Response of the Florida legume Galactia elliottii to shade." Agroforestry Systems 9(3): 233-239.
  7. J. A. Langley, B. G. Drake, and B. A. Hungate. “Extensive Belowground Carbon Storage Supports Roots and Mycorrhizae in Regenerating Scrub Oaks”. Oecologia 131.4 (2002): 542–548. Web...
  8. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 9 DEC 2016
  9. [Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center]Accessed: December 11, 2015
  10. Muir, J.P. and W.D. Pitman (1991). "RESPONSES OF DESMANTHUS-VIRGATUS, DESMODIUM-HETEROCARPON, AND GALACTIA-ELLIOTTII TO DEFOLIATION". Journal of Tropical Grasslands 25(3):291-296.
  11. Silva-Lugo, Jose L., and George W. Tanner. “Testing Control Sites for Fire Ecology Research”.Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 137.2/3 (2010): 263–276.
  12. Schmalzer, Paul A., and C. Ross Hinkle. “Recovery of Oak-saw Palmetto Scrub After Fire”.Castanea 57.3 (1992): 158–173.
  13. Deyrup, M.A. and N.D. 2015. Database of observations of Hymenoptera visitations to flowers of plants on Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA.