A family of small herbs (our species) with alternate, opposite or whorled leaves. Flowers racemose, spicate or capitate, rarely solitary and axillary, sometimes also with cleistogamous and subterranean flowers. Sepals very unequal, the two lateral ones large and petallike. Petals three, united into a tube which is split on the back, and more or less adnate to the stamens. Stamens eight or six, monadelphous below, or diadelphous. Capsule membranaceous, compressed, dehiscent along the margin. Seeds one in each cavity of the capsule and usually hairy.

Our species all belong to Polygala, a very large genus of plants, containing about sixty species in North America, of which about eleven are found in New York State. The following key may be of service in identifying them.

Flowers orange-yellow in a dense oblong spike; basal leaves spatulate.......1 P. 1utea

Flowers rose or purple, distinctly racemose.........................2 P. polygama

Flowers rose-puiple to white, one to four in number, axillary, but apparently terminal. . . .

3 P. paucifolia Flowers in terminal, more or less elongated spikes, or if the spikes oblong, flowers not yellow and no basal leaves Leaves at least the lower, verticillate, spikes 4 to 9 lines thick, blunt; flowers purple to greenish white

Spikes sessile or nearly so; wings deltoid....................4 P. cruciata

Spikes peduncled; wings lanceolate-ovate.................5 P. brevifolia

Leaves verticillate and alternate; spikes 2 to 3 lines thick and acute

Verticillate leaves predominating; spikes dense; flowers green to purplish........

6 P. verticillata

Alternate leaves predominating; spikes loose; flowers more purple..............

7 P. ambigua

Leaves all alternate

Petals united into a tube which is cleft and about one-fourth of an inch long; flowers pink.........................................8 P. incarnata

Petals not conspicuously united into a tube

Spikes ovoid to globose; bracts persistent; flowers rose-purple to white......

9 P. viridescens Spikes cylindric

Leaves oblanceolate to linear, 2 to 6 lines long; flowers greenish to purplish.....................................10 P. nutta11ii

Leaves lanceolate, 1 to 2 inches long; flowers white to greenish........

11 P. senega