Polygala senega L.

Polygala senega plant

Family - Polygalaceae

Stems - Multiple from a thickened taproot and fibrous roots, erect, herbaceous, to +45cm tall, branching in upper 1/2, often purplish base, puberulent above, glabrescent at base, terete.

Polygala senega stemStem.

Leaves - Alternate, petiolate. Petioles to 2-3mm long, puberulent below. Blades acuminate, tapering at base, elliptic, deep green above, lighter green below, with serrulate margins, mostly glabrous but with a very few sparse puberulent hairs, to 7cm long, +2.5cm broad, leaves often larger near the apex of the plant.

Polygala senega leaves

Inflorescence - Terminal and lateral indeterminate racemes to +/-5cm tall (long). Axis puberulent.

Flowers - Petals 3, united into a whitish glabrous tube, lacerate at apex. Stamens 8, adnate with corolla tube, in two rows. Anthers yellow, .2mm long. Ovary superior, green, glabrous, orbicular, .7mm in diameter. Style green, -1mm long, green, glabrous, with a few floccose hairs at apex, clavate. Stigma lateral, small. Calyx accrescent. Sepals 5. Lateral sepals colored as the petals and spreading, to +3mm long, 2.1mm broad, glabrous, with ciliolate margins. Lower two sepals and single upper sepal small, greenish-white, acute, puberulent. Lower two to .3mm long. The basal sepal to 1.5mm long. Fruit a capsule, glabrous to sparse pubescent, to 5mm in diameter, slightly compressed.

Polygala senega flowerFlower close-up.

Flowering - May - July.

Habitat - Rocky woods, open ground, prairies, gravel bars, stream banks.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This small species can be found in a couple different areas of Missouri. It is more prevalent in the Ozark region but can also be found in a few counties in the north-central portion of the state. This is a striking little plant and should be cultivated more.
Steyermark lists two varieties based on leaf shape and sepal size but I won't go into those here.

Photographs taken in the Ozark Scenic Riverways, Shannon County, MO., 5-24-03.