Polygala cymosa

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Polygala cymosa
FL 15562.jpg
Photo taken by Gil Nelson
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Order: Fabales
Family: Polygalaceae
Genus: Polygala
Species: P. cymosa
Binomial name
Polygala cymosa
Poly cymo dist.jpg
Natural range of Polygala cymosa from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common name: Tall pinebarren milkwort

Taxonomic notes

Synonyms: Pilostaxis cymosa (Walter) Small; Pylostachya cymosa (Walter) Small


"Herbs, whorled or alternate rarely opposite, entire leaves. Flowers lavender, pink, white or yellow, in racemes or spikes, terminating the branches or in terminal corymbs. Flowers perfect, zygomorphic, with 3 small sepals, frequently one of these slightly larger than the others, and 2 larger petaloid sepals (wigs). The 3 petals are united into a tube, 3-lobed at apex, the 2 lateral lobes usually the longer, the center lobe usually lacerate, often thicker in texture; stamens 6-8, united to the corolla tube in 2 rows. Capsule 2 –locular, with one seed in each locule. Seeds dark brown or black, ellipsoid or ovoid, rarely globose, 0.5-3 mm long, usually densely pubescent. The genus has been divided into several genera none of which have distinct characteristics. Orange flowers turn pale yellow on drying, yellow ones bluish green; the pink or lavender ones remain the same color or fade slightly."[1]

"Similar to P. ramose. Stems usually solitary from a rosette, 4-12 dm tall. Basal leaves lanceolate to linear, 4-7 cm long, 3-7 mm wide, rapidly reduced upward. Sepals rounded to an abrupt acute apex, wings oblanceolate to nearly spatulate, 3-3.5 mm long; corolla with 2 clavate lobes at the apex equaling the wings. Seeds purplish black to grayish brown, glabrous and finely reticulate, ovoid, 0.6-0.8 mm long; aril obsolete."[1]


P. cymosa is found throughout the southeast coastal plain from North Carolina to Louisiana.[2]

Polygala cymosa is endemic to an area from southeastern New Jersey and Delaware to eastern North and South Carolina, but there is a disjunction between the Carolinas and New Jersey-Delaware.[3]



P. cymosa is an obligate wetland plant and occurs in habitats such as cypress depressions, pine flatwoods, and depressional wetlands.[4] Associated taxa include Aristida, Hypericum, Dichromena, Sarracenia, Drosera, Eriocaulon, and Pinguicula.[5]


P. cymosa has been observed flowering April through July and in September with peak inflorescence in April.[5][6]

Seed dispersal

Seeds have an elaiosome, therefore the seeds are dispersed by ants.[7]


Polygala cymosa was observed at the Archbold Biological Station to host leafcutting bees from the Megachilidae family such as Megachile brevis pseudobrevis.[8]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 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. 660. Print.
  2. [[1]] Native Florida Wildflowers. Accessed: February 21, 2016
  3. Sorrie, B. A. and A. S. Weakley 2001. Coastal Plain valcular plant endemics: Phytogeographic patterns. Castanea 66: 50-82.
  4. Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: November 2015. Collectors: Bob Fewster, Robert K. Godfrey, Marc Minno, R.A. Norris, Cecil R. Slaughter. States and Counties: Florida: Flagler, Franklin, Gilchrist. Compiled by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.
  5. 5.0 5.1 [[2]] Department of Environmental Protection. Accessed: February 21, 2016
  6. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. www.gilnelson.com/PanFlora/ Accessed: 12 DEC 2016
  7. [[3]] Treasure Coast Natives. Accessed: February 21, 2016
  8. Deyrup, M.A. and N.D. 2015. Database of observations of Hymenoptera visitations to flowers of plants on Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA.