Friday, November 12, 2010

Lewton's Milkwort - Polygala lewtonii

Lewton's polygala (Polygala lewtonii) is an exceedingly rare endemic species; listed by the state and federal governments as endangered and confined to a 6-county area in the central Florida peninsula.  This distinctive and beautiful member of the milkwort family requires deep well-drained sandy soils and high light levels.
Lewton's polygala is a perennial.  Its many stems tend to lean sideways, so the plant itself rarely stands taller than about 6-8 inches.  They are densely clothed in needle-like evergreen leaves. 
The flowers occur in long racemes at the end of each stem and blooming is most common in early spring.  The flowers are a rich pink in color and are keeled - somewhat like those in the legume family.
This is a species that is easy to miss when not in bloom.  Look for it from February to April if you are hiking in upland sandy habitats in central Florida.  It will be one of a few bright pink wildflowers at this time.  This is not a candidate for home landscapes and we have never grown it at Hawthorn Hill, but its aesthetic qualities and perennial nature might lend itself to that purpose if someone were to take it on legally for the rest of us with somewhat esoteric tastes and sandy open wildflower gardens.

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