This member of the very diversified Milkwort family is, in the manner of most of its members, unlike most of the group. It is a slender Little plant with something of the appearance of a spring flower, but it blooms in midsummer in dry, clay soil, usually on dry uplands in company with poverty grass, ironweed, and spiny puffballs.
Polygala sanguined L.
July - August. Upland fields, open hills.
Field milkwort has thin, angled, pale green stems which branch in the upper part of the plant; on the tip of each branch there is a cloverlike head of flowers. The flowers themselves are tiny, and are closely overlapped, arranged like the scales of a pine cone, but are open at the top of the flower head. The flowers are bright rose-purple below and grow paler toward the top of the flower, where they are pale green or almost white. The leaves are narrow and stiff, arranged alternately on the thin stems. Before the flowers bloom the plants are so inconspicuous that they are almost invisible in the wilderness of grass. But when july comes and the uplands bake in the sunshine, the flowers of milkwort bloom, and at a distance the slope is purple with their small magnificence.
There on the upland the field sparrow sings in the hot summer sun-shine. The meadow mice continue to cut new runways through the sparse grass and arch the runways with grassblades to keep them from the allseeing eye of the hovering hawk. And around the stems of the milkworts the brown mice run. and thriftily garner the milkwort seeds when they drop to the ground.