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Polygala sanguinea (Purple milkwort)
Smith, R.W.

Polygala sanguinea

Polygala sanguinea L.

Purple Milkwort

Polygalaceae (Milkwort Family)

Synonym(s): Polygala viridescens

USDA Symbol: POSA3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Tiny, pink to rose or greenish flowers in a dense, cylindrical, head-like cluster, with floral bracts beneath the flowers that persist on stem when flowers fall. Underground root gives off wintergreen odor when crushed.

A least a dozen species of Milkworts occur with pink or white flowers. A somewhat similar pink-flowering species, Racemed Milkwort (P. polygama), is a perennial with a looser floral cluster. It also produces a different kind of flower, one that does not open, on whitish, subterranean, horizontal branches. The white-flowering Seneca Snakeroot (P. senega), has an elongated cluster of tiny, white flowers and lanceolate to ovate leaves. These species are typical of dry, often sandy, or rocky woods.


From the Image Gallery

4 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Annual
Habit: Herb
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 16 inches tall.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Pink , Purple
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
Bloom Notes: Rarely white.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Ontario to Nova Scotia; south through New England to South Carolina; west to Tennessee and Louisiana; north to Oklahoma and Minnesota.
Native Habitat: Damp grasslands.

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry


Conspicuous Flowers: yes

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Polygala sanguinea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Polygala sanguinea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Polygala sanguinea


Record Modified: 2023-05-01
Research By: TWC Staff

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