Polygala nana

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Polygala nana
Polygala nana Gil.jpg
Photo taken by Gil Nelson
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Order: Polygalales
Family: Polygalaceae
Genus: Polygala
Species: P. nana
Binomial name
Polygala nana
(Michx.) DC.
POLY NANA dist.jpg
Natural range of Polygala nana from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common names: candyroot, dwarf milkwort

Taxonomic notes

Synonyms: Pilostaxis nana (Michaux) Rafinesque; Pylostachya nana (Michaux) Rafinesque[1]

Varieties: none[1]


"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."[2]

"Similar to P. lutea. 3-15 cm tall, with leaves mostly confined to a basal rosette; stem leaves few. Flowers lemon yellow. Wings 7-8 mm long, long acuminate."[2]




This species has been found in open, well-drained wiregrass-pine flatwoods and interdune swales growing on both dry and moist sands.[3] Observed species in sandhill longleaf pine habitat that has 1 to 3 year fire return intervals. Also seen near a cypress pond, about 1 to 2 feet from water’s edge of Pebble Hill Plantation C plots. (Michelle M. Smith – early summer 2014 and 2015).P. nana has also been found growing along the sides of highways and in the wetlands of clear cut areas.[3] Associated species include Pinus palustris and Aristida stricta.[3]

Polygala nana is an indicator species for the Upper Panhandle Savannas community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[4]


P. nana has been observed flowering from January to July with peak inflorescence in April.[3][5]

Seed dispersal

This species is thought to be dispersed by ants and/or explosive dehiscence.[6]

Fire ecology

Populations of Polygala nana have been known to persist through repeated annual burns.[7][8]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Weakley, A.S. 2020. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Edition of 20 October 2020. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  2. 2.0 2.1 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.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: July 2015. Collectors: : Loran C. Anderson, Leon Neel, R. A. Norris, Robert K. Godfrey, Walter Kittredge, R. Komarek, Lisa Keppner. States and Counties: Florida: Franklin, Gadsden, Leon, Wakulla, Washington. Georgia: Grady, Thomas. Compiled by Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.
  4. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  5. 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
  6. Kirkman, L. Katherine. Unpublished database of seed dispersal mode of plants found in Coastal Plain longleaf pine-grasslands of the Jones Ecological Research Center, Georgia.
  7. Robertson, K.M. Unpublished data collected from Pebble Hill Fire Plots, Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville, Georgia.
  8. Platt, W.J., R. Carter, G. Nelson, W. Baker, S. Hermann, J. Kane, L. Anderson, M. Smith, K. Robertson. 2021. Unpublished species list of Wade Tract old-growth longleaf pine savanna, Thomasville, Georgia.