Featured Plants - Tall Milkwort
Polygala cymosa Walter
This 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
butterworts (Pinguicula spp.).
Synonymy: Pilostaxis cymosa (Walter) Small
Botanical description and illustration by John D. Tobe