Herbs or shrubs, with the leaves mostly simple and without stipules. Flowers irregular, unsymmetrical, hypogynous, perfect. Sepals 5, very unequal, distinct, 3 exterior, 2 (wings) interior larger, petaloid. Petals 3, the anterior (keel) larger than the 2 posterior Stamens 4 to 8, distinct, or cohering in a tube which is split on the upper side. Ovary superior, compound, with suspended ovules, united styles and stigmas. Fruit a 2-celled, 2-seeded pod. Seeds pendulous, furnished with a caruncle.
637. Polygala polygama. a, the radical flowers. 8, paucifolia, f, the crest on the lower petal. 0, The stamens in 2 sets and the style seen beneath the hooded lower petal. 640, The ovary and the style. 1. Seed of P. sanguines with its 2-lobed caruncle. 2. Seed of P. Nultallii.
Genera 20, species 500. The genus Polygala is very generally distributed. The other genera are mostly limited each to a particular quarter of the globe. Properties generally bitter, acrid and astringent, with a milky juice in the root. Rhatany-root, the root of Krameria, used in medicine, yields a deep red color and is used to adulterate port wine. The more active species of Polygala, as P. Senega, sanguinea, purpurea, etc., arc emetic, purgative and diuretic.
POLYGALA, Tourn. Milkwort. (Gr. much, milk; said to favor the lacteal secretions of animals.) Flowers very irregular. Sepals 5, 2 of them wing-shaped and petaloid; petals 3, cohering by their claws to the filaments, lower one carinate and often crested on the back; stamens 6 or 8, filaments united into a split tube; anthers 1-celled; capsule obcordate, 2-celled, 2-seeded, loculicidal; seed appendaged with a various caruncle at the hilum. - Bitter herbs in the U. S. and Can. (elsewhere often shrubby), with simple lvs. Fls. often of two forms, the subterranean apetalous.
Leaves alternate. - Fls. purple, solitary, 2 to 4. Perennial.....................................
- Fls. purple, racemed, many. Biennial................................
- Fls. white. Spike slender. Perennial.............................
.... No. 4
-Fls. purple. Spike capitate. - Caruncle double..........................
- Caruncle appears simple. Annual.
Nos. 8 - 10
- Fls.xanthic. - Spikes solitary, large. Biennial..............................
Nos. 11, 12
- Spikes numerous, corymbed, small. Biennial......
Nos. 13, 14
Leaves verticillate on the stem. - Spikes acute, slender.........................
Nos. 15, 16
- Spikes obtuse, thick,....................................
Nos. 17, 18
1 P. paucifolia L. St. simple, erect, naked below; lvs. ovate, acute, smooth; terminal fls. large, crested, radical ones apetalous. - A small, handsome plant, with a few large (10" long) purple flowers. Woods and swamps, Brit. Am. to Ga. St. 3 to 4' high, with its acute lvs.. mostly near the top, 2 to 4 flowers above them. Cal. of 5 leaves, the upper one gibbous at base. Corolla mostly purple, with a purple crest on its middle lobe. The radical fls. are either close to the ground or subterraneous, smaller, greenish, wanting the wings of the calyx. May.
2 P. grandiflora Walt. Ascending, pubescent; lvs. ovate-lanceolate to lance-linear, acute; fls. distant, pendulous after blooming, wings large, roundish, covering the corolla and fruit, keel as long as the wings (3"), crestless. - ? Common in dry soils, S. Car., Ga., Fla to La. A pretty plant, 9 to 12' high, remarkable for its changeable flowers, rose-colored at first, soon becoming green and drooping, and alone destitute of a crest, having a yellow callosity instead. Lvs. 9 to 15" long, 2 to 4" wide, often nearly glabrous. May - Aug.
3 P. potygama Walt Sis. simple, numerous, glabrous; lvs. linear oblong, mu-cronate, obtuse; fls. racemed, short-pediceled, those of the stem winged, those of the root wingless; keel cristate. - Fields and pastures, Can. to Fla. and La. Sts. crowded, many from the same root, angular, smooth. Lvs. smooth, lower obovate, upper sessile. Fls. purple, 2" long, finally drooping. Wings obtuse, Anth. 8. Bracts small, subulate, caducous. Terminal racemes with perfect fls., radical racemes prostrate or subterraneous, wingless and nearly apetalous. Jn., Jl. Bitter and tonic. (P. rubella Willd.)
4. P. Senega L. Seneca Snake-root. St. erect, smooth, simple, leafy; lvs. alternate, lanceolate, tapering at each end; fls. slightly crested, in a terminal spike-form, slender raceme. - Woods, Western States, rare in Eastern. Root ligneous, branched, contorted, about 1/2' thick, ash-colored. Sts. 8 to 14' high, several from the same root. Lvs. 1 to 2' long, 1/3 as wide, numerous, scattered. Fls. white, in a filiform spike, 1 to 2' long. Sep. obtuse, larger than the petals. The root has a sweetish, nauseous taste, soon becoming pungent and hot. Jl. A valuable stimulating expectorant. β. latifolia T. & G. Lvs. ovate, acuminate at each end. - St. leafy, more than 1f high. Lvs. 2 to 3' long, 1' or more broad. Ind. (Dr. Plummer.)
5 P. setacea Mx. Sts. filiform, simple, apparently leafless (lvs. minute, deltoid-acuminate); spike (small) oblong, acute; wings short-pointed, shorter than the petals; caruncle enclosing the short stipe of the hairy seed. - N. Car. to Ga. and Fla. Sts. about 1f high. Lvs. 1" or less long. Fls. pale roseate, in a spike about half an inch long. Jn., Jl. - Each stem produces several heads during the season, the next in succession arising from an inferior node after the former has shed its fruit. Hence the naked footstalk often accompanying the single head (Mettauer).
6 P. incarnata L. Glaucous; st. erect, slender, mostly simple; lvs. few, scat. tered, linear-subulate; spike oblong; wings lanceolate, cuspidate, claws of the petals united into a long, cleft tube; caruncle double, covering the short stipe of the very hairy seed.- Dry soils, N. J., to Fla., W. to Ark. St. 1 to 2f high. Lvs. 4 to 6" long, remote. Spikes 1 to 1 1/2' long. Fls. pale rose-color or flesh-color. The slender corolla tube erect, nearly twice as long (4') as the wings, the keel with a conspicuous crest. Jn., Jl.
7 P. Chapmanii Torr. & Gr. Very slender, simple, or nearly so; lvs. linear-subulate; spike loose; roundish oblong, rather acute; wings obovate, slightly clawed; caruncle 2-lobed, covering one side of the thick stipe of the thin-haired seed. - W. Fla. to La. (Hale). Sts. 12 to 18' high. Lvs. acute, 6 to 8" long, not 1/2" wide. Fls. bright rose-color. Heads 5" thick.