Polygala verticillata L.

whorled milkwort

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Where native and non-native distributions co-occur in a county, only the native distribution is shown.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Easily overlooked, whorled milkwort is a diminutive plant of fields, clearings and roadsides, with tiny, conical inflorescences of 1/8th-inch (0.3 cm) round, white flowers that do not fully open.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), cliffs, balds, or ledges, meadows and fields, ridges or ledges, woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Flower petal color
  • green to brown
  • pink to red
  • white
Leaf type
the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
Leaf arrangement
  • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
  • opposite: there are two leaves per node along the stem
  • whorled: there are three or more leaves per node along the stem
Leaf blade edges
the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
Flower symmetry
there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
Number of sepals, petals or tepals
there are three petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
Fusion of petals
the petals are fused into a corolla tube
Stamen number
8
Fruit type (general)
the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Bulbils
    the plant does not appear to have bulbils
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
  • Flowers
    Anther attachment
    the anther is attached by its base to the filament
    Anther opening
    the anthers have small holes or openings at the tips
    Anther spurs
    the anthers do not have spurs on them
    Calyx symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the calyx (the calyx is radially symmetrical)
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused to one another
    Cleistogamous flowers
    there are no cleistogamous flowers on the plan
    Corolla palate
    no
    Corona lobe length
    0 mm
    Epicalyx
    the flower does not have an epicalyx
    Epicalyx number of parts
    0
    Filament surface
    the filament is smooth, with no hairs or scales
    Flower description
    the flower has a superior ovary, and lacks a hypanthium
    Flower length
    3–6 mm
    Flower petal color
    • green to brown
    • pink to red
    • white
    Flower reproductive parts
    the flower has both pollen- and seed-producing parts
    Flower symmetry
    there is only one way to evenly divide the flower (the flower is bilaterally symmetrical)
    Flowers sunken into stem
    no
    Form of style
    the style is lobed at the tip, and unbranched
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are fringed
    Fused stamen clusters
    there is one cluster of fused stamens
    Fusion of petals
    the petals are fused into a corolla tube
    Horns in hoods (Asclepias)
    NA
    Hypanthium
    the flower does not have a hypanthium
    Inflorescence length
    6–40 mm
    Inflorescence one-sided
    the flowers are arrayed in a spiral around the inflorescence axis or branches, or occur singly, or in several ranks
    Inflorescence width
    6–14 mm
    Inner tepals (Rumex)
    NA
    Length of flower stalk
    Up to 1.5 mm
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of branches in umbel
    0
    Number of sepals, petals or tepals
    there are three petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal folds or pleats
    the petals of the flower do not have folds or plaits
    Petal hairs (Viola)
    NA
    Petal length relative to sepals
    the petals are shorter than the sepals
    Petal number
    3
    Petal tips (Cuscuta)
    NA
    Raceme attachment (Veronica)
    NA
    Reproductive system
    all the flowers have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    Sepal and petal color
    the sepals are different from the petals
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble petals in color and texture
    Sepal appendages (Oenothera)
    NA
    Sepal color
    • green to brown
    • pink to red
    • white
    Sepal length
    Up to 2.6 mm
    Sepal number
    5
    Sepal shape
    • the sepal outline is eliiptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the sepal outline is lanceolate (lance-shaped; narrow, gradually tapering from the base to the tip)
    • the sepal outline is ovate (widest below the middle and broadly tapering at both ends)
    Sepal tip shape
    • the sepal tip is obtuse (is bluntly pointed)
    • the sepal tip is rounded
    Sepal uniformity
    one or more of the sepals is much narrower or shorter than the others
    Spur length
    0 mm
    Spur number
    NA
    Stamen attachment
    the stamens are attached at or near the bases of the petals or tepals
    Stamen number
    8
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are attached to one another at or near their bases
    Style petal-like
    the styles are not petal-like
    Umbel flower reproductive parts
    NA
    Upper lip of bilabiate corolla
    NA
  • Fruits or seeds
    Achene relative orientation
    NA
    Achene shape
    NA
    Achene surface (Polygonum)
    NA
    Achene type
    NA
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule color (Viola)
    NA
    Capsule splitting
    the capsule splits by two main valves, teeth or pores
    Carpel beak length
    0 mm
    Fruit (pyxis) dehiscence
    NA
    Fruit beak length
    0 mm
    Fruit features (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Fruit length relative to sepals
    the fruit is longer than its associated sepals
    Fruit locules
    two
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Legumes (Fabaceae)
    NA
    Mericarp length
    0 mm
    Mericarp segment shape (Desmodium)
    NA
    Other markings on berry
    NA
    Placenta arrangement
    • the plant has apical placentation, where one or a few ovules develop at the top of a simple or compound ovary
    • the plant has axile placentation, in which the ovules are attached where the septa of a compound ovary are united, usually on the central axis, or to the septa themselves
    Rows of seeds in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit compression
    NA
    Schizocarpic fruit segments
    0
    Seed length
    1.2–1.4 mm
    Seed number
    2
    Seed relative length
    the seed is longer than it is wide
    Seed surface
    the seed has hairs on it
    Septum in fruit (Brassicaceae)
    NA
    Wings on fruit
    the fruit does not have wings on it
    prickles on fruits
    the fruits do not have thorn-like defensive structures
  • Glands or sap
    Glands on leaf blade
    the leaf blades do not have glandular dots or scales
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
    Sap color
    the sap is clear
  • Growth form
    Growth form
    the plant is an herb (it has self-supporting stems)
    Lifespan
    the plant lives only a single year or less
    Parasitism
    the plant is not parasitic
    Plant color
    the leaves or young stems of the plant are green
    Plants darken when dry
    no
    Spines on plant
    the plant has no spines
    Underground organs
    there is a thickened taproot on the plant
  • Leaves
    Bracteole number (Apiaceae)
    0
    Bracts in plantain (Plantago)
    NA
    Final leaf segment length (compound lvs only)
    0 mm
    Final leaf segment length to width ratio (compound lvs only)
    0
    Final leaf segment width (compound lvs only)
    0 mm
    Floral bracts
    the flower has one or more bracts associated with it
    Hairs on underside of leaf
    the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or it has very few hairs
    Hooked hairs on underside of leaf
    no
    Inflated hairs on leaf
    the leaf blade does not have inflated hairs on it
    Leaf arrangement
    • alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    • opposite: there are two leaves per node along the stem
    • whorled: there are three or more leaves per node along the stem
    Leaf blade base symmetry
    the leaf blade base is symmetrical
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf has no noticeable bloom
    Leaf blade edges
    the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf blade flatness
    the leaf is flat (planar) at the edges
    Leaf blade hairs
    NA
    Leaf blade length
    10–30 mm
    Leaf blade primary vein pattern
    the secondary veins branch off at intervals from the primary vein
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
    • the leaf blade is oblong (rectangular but with rounded ends)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is herbaceous (has a leafy texture)
    Leaf blade veins
    the leaf blade has one main vein running from the base towards the tip (it may or may not have secondary veins)
    Leaf duration
    the leaves drop off in winter (or they whither but persist on the plant)
    Leaf form
    the leaves are green, with an expanded blade and a leaf-like texture
    Leaf hair orientation
    NA
    Leaf shiny
    the upper side of the leaf is dull or slightly shiny
    Leaf spines
    there are no spines on the leaf edges
    Leaf stalk
    • the leaves have leaf stalks
    • the leaves have no leaf stalks, but attach directly to the stem
    Leaf stalk attachment to leaf
    • NA
    • the petiole attaches at the basal margin of the leaf blade
    Leaf teeth and lobes
    the edge of the leaf blade is entire (has no teeth or lobes)
    Leaf tip
    the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Leaf types
    NA
    Leaf variation
    the leaves are nearly similar in size, prominence of teeth, and length of stalks throughout the stem
    Leaflet number
    0
    Leaflet petiolules
    NA
    Leaves per node
    • there are five leaves per node along the stem
    • there are four leaves per node along the stem
    • there are three leaves per node along the stem
    • there are two leaves per node along the stem
    • there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Pinnately compound leaf type
    NA
    Specific leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets)
    Stipels
    NA
    Stipule edges
    NA
    Stipule features
    NA
    Stipule fused to leaf stalk
    NA
    Stipule length
    0 mm
    Stipule shape
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on the plant
    Teeth per side of leaf blade
    0
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • ridges or ledges
    • woodlands
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the plant does not have much of a smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Branched tendrils
    NA
    Direction of stem hairs
    NA
    Flowering stem cross-section
    • the flowering stem has strong or sharp angles, but is not square
    • the flowering stem is roughly square
    Hair between stem nodes
    the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Hairs between stem nodes
    the stem has no hairs between the nodes
    Hooked hairs on stem between nodes
    no
    Leaves on stem
    there is at least one full leaf above the base of the flowering stem
    Length of hairs between stem nodes
    0 mm
    Plant height
    10–40 cm
    Stem bloom
    there is no powdery or waxy film on the stem
    Stem hair distribution
    NA
    Stem nodes swollen
    the stem is not swollen at the nodes
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright or angled outwards
    Stem roughness between nodes
    the stem does not feel rough
    Tendril origin
    NA
    Tendrils
    the plant does not have tendrils
    Wings on stem
    the stem does not have wings on it

Wetland Status

Occurs only in non-wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: UPL)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
rare to uncommon (S-rank: S2S3), #NAME? (code: #NAME?)
Rhode Island
extremely rare (S-rank: S1), concern (code: C)
Vermont
rare (S-rank: S2)

var. ambigua

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. isocycla

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. verticillata

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Sometimes Confused With

Polygala sanguinea:
all nodes with alternate leaves and inflorescence blunt at apex (vs. P. verticillata, with some nodes with whorled leaves and inflorescence pointed at apex).

Synonyms

  • Polygala pretzii Pennell
  • Polygala verticillata var. isocycla Fern.
  • Sexilia verticillata (L.) Raf.

Family

Polygalaceae

Genus

Polygala

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

8.  Polygala verticillata L. N

whorled milkwort. Polygala verticillata L. var. isocycla Fern.; P. pretzii Pennell; Sexilia verticillata (L.) Raf. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Fields, clearings, ledges, roadsides, open woodlands.