Polygala rugelii

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Polygala rugelii
Poly ruge.jpg
Photo by Wayne Matchett, SpaceCoastWildflowers.com
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Order: Fabales
Family: Polygalaceae
Genus: Polygala
Species: P. rugelii
Binomial name
Polygala rugelii
Shuttlw. ex Chapm.
Poly ruge dist.jpg
Natural range of Polygala rugelii from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common name: Yellow milkwort

Taxonomic notes

Synonym: Pilostaxis rugelii (Shuttleworth ex Chapman) Small

It is named for the German botanist, Ferdinand Rugel, who collected plants in Florida during the early 1800s.[1]


P. rugelii is an annual species, however, sometimes can be a biennial. In the spring, the irregular rosette is composed of spatulate leaves. The flower stalk arises in summer and the basal rosette will disappear. The stalk can reach 1 to 3 feet high and is often branched.[2]


P. rugelii is endemic to the Florida peninsula.[2]



In the Coastal Plain in Florida, P. rugelii can occur in wiregrass/saw palmetto/pine associations, cypress bays and flatwood marshes. It has occurred in disturbed areas such as cleared pine flatwoods and a recently timber harvested bayhead. It grows in peaty-sandy soil. Associated species include wiregrass, saw palmetto, pine, and cypress.[3]

Polygala rugelii is an indicator species for the Central Florida Flatwoods/Prairies community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[4]


Flowers late summer to early fall.[2]

Fire ecology

Following a fire, flowering of P. rugelii is conspicuous.[5]


The following Hymenoptera families and species were observed visiting flowers of Polygala rugelii at the Archbold Biological Station:[6]

Bees from the family Apidae: Mellisodes communis

Sweat bees from the family Halictidae: Augochlorella gratiosa

Leafcutting bees from the family Megachilidae: Megachile brevis pseudobrevis

Thread-waisted wasps from the family Sphecidae: Ammophila pictipennis

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Cultural use

Large doses of this species act as a strong laxative.[7]

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. [[1]]All Things Plants. Accessed: February 20, 2016
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 [[2]] Native Florida Wildflowers. Accessed: February 22, 2016
  3. Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: November 2015. Collectors: A. Gholson Jr., Robert K. Godfrey, R.A. Norris, A.G. Shuey. States and Counties: Florida: Gilchrist, Manatee, Volusia. 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. Abrahamson, W. G. (1984). "Species Responses to Fire on the Florida Lake Wales Ridge." American Journal of Botany 71(1): 35-43.
  6. Deyrup, M.A. and N.D. 2015. Database of observations of Hymenoptera visitations to flowers of plants on Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA.
  7. Austin D. 2002 Milkworts Discovering Florida's Ethnobotany with Dr. Dan Austin. Palmetto 21(2):10-11