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Dwarf Milkwort

Polygala amarella

  • Family: Milkwort Family – Polygalaceae
  • Growing form: Perennial herb.
  • Height: 5–15 cm (2–6 in.). 10–25 cm (4–10 in.). Many-stemmed. Stem ascending, unbranched–sparsely branching, bristly, woody, hairy.
  • Flower: Irregular (zygomorphic), 3–4 mm (0.12–0.16 in.) long. Corolla usually blue, sometimes rose-red or white, base fused, tubular, 3-lobed; upper lobes round-tipped, lowermost keel-like, tip many-lobed. Sepals 5, inner 2 big, shorter than capsule, petaloid, unclearly veined; outer 3 bluish–green, short, narrow. Stamens 8, in 2 groups. Gynoecium composed of 2 fused carpels. Inflorescence a short, dense, 10–25-flowered terminal raceme, bracts falling early.
  • Leaves: In basal rosette and alternate on stem, short-stalked–stalkless. Blade elliptic–long, with entire margins, hairy. During flowering time base with clear leaf rosette.
  • Fruit: Cordate capsule, flat, with broadly membranous edge, 2-parted.
  • Habitat: Young seaside meadows and coppices, rich swamps, meadows, banks. Calciphile.
  • Flowering time: June–July.
  • Endangerment: Vulnerable.

Milkworts are native to Finland, but grazing land created more room for them. Dwarf milkwort used to grow on meadows in south-western, eastern and northern Finland. The species has probably never been particularly common, but since the practice of grazing ended it has clearly declined and even disappeared in many places. Nowadays it is most common on damp and calciferous meadows in the Åland Islands. On mainland Finland its typical habitat of slightly calciferous and often dry meadows is so different that it is thought that the milkworts that grow on the Åland Islands and mainland Finland have a different origin.

Milkwort’s scientific name means ’lots of milk’, and was the name used by Ancient Greeks for a dwarf shrub that was thought to increase the amount of milk yielded by sheep and cows, and for the same reason it was recommended for nursing mothers. The name and reputation was later transferred to milkwort, even though it most likely doesn’t possess such properties. Cattle are not drawn to eat dwarf milkwort because it tastes very bitter.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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