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Wetland Evaluation and Delineation Program

Featured Plants - Tall Milkwort

Polygala cymosa Walter

Milkwort flowerTall milkwort habitat - depressional marsh - Photo by Ann DresslerThis yellow flowering milkwort was described by Thomas Walter from the coastal plain of South Carolina in 1788. In Florida it is often found in depressional wetlands, cypress swamps, savannas, and in hydric pine flatwoods, usually in shallow water, throughout the state south to the Highlands county area. It is an herbaceous biennial and when not in flower it is often inconspicuous as a basal rosette composed of smooth, narrow leaves to 6 cm long. Basal leaves are present when plants are in flower. Flowering occurs during the summer months, April-July. The small flowers are yellow and irregular with two spoon-shaped "wings". Although the individual flowers are small, the inflorescence is striking - as collectively, the bright yellow flowers are clustered toward the tips of a tall, up to a meter, somewhat flat-topped, inflorescence.

This species can be confused with the closely related, Polygala ramosa. This species also has yellow flowers, however the inflorescence is rarely over 30 cm tall. In addition the basal leaves are spatule (spoon-shaped) and often absent when the plant is in flower. Where both species occur together look for P. cymosa to flower about 4 weeks before P. ramosa.

Associated taxa include: wiregrass (Aristida spp.), St. John's wort (Hypericum spp.), white topped sedge (Dichromena spp.), pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.), sundews (Drosera spp.), hat pins (Eriocaulon spp.) and butterworts (Pinguicula spp.).

Synonymy: Pilostaxis cymosa (Walter) Small

Botanical description and illustration by John D. Tobe

milkwort plant illustration

Last updated: September 21, 2011

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