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Field Milkwort

Field Milkwort

Polygala sanguinea
Family: 
Polygalaceae (milkworts)
Description: 

Small, herbaceous annual with angled stems, usually not branching. Flowers in terminal, dense, cylindrical heads, ranging from pink to white to green. Each flower has 5 sepals: The top 1 and lower 2 sepals are small and green, and the 2 side sepals are prominent, larger, and petallike, pink or white. The 3 petals are joined, forming a small, narrow tube, and are also pink or white. Blooms May–October. Leaves alternate, widely spaced, linear to narrowly elliptical, edged with extremely small teeth. Stalks are hairless, though spiky remnants of spent, dropped flowers remain beneath the flower head.

Size: 
Height: to about 8 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Occurs in dry or wet situations in prairies, old fields, meadows, and glades, often on poor or acid soils.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Statewide except northwestern counties.
Status: 
Although the flowering heads of milkwort resemble those of a clover plant, milkworts are in their own family.
Human connections: 
Another species, P. senega, was used by Native Americans as a remedy for snakebite (milkworts are also called "snakeroots"). Though no longer used for treating snakebites, senega root is still being collected by root diggers, since herbalists sell it for a variety of other medicinal uses.
Ecosystem connections: 
A variety of bees visit the flowers, and some butterflies and moths use it as their larval food plant.
Shortened URL
http://mdc.mo.gov/node/17581