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Polygala cruciata L.

Marsh Milkwort

Habitat: Wet pinelands, savannas, peats, and sands. [Dry barrens (partly forested, upland); Open wetland, not coastal nor rivershore (non-forested, wetland)]

Range: Maine, south to Virginia and the mountains of Alabama and Tennessee, west to Illinois, north to Minnesota.

Aids to Identification: Marsh milkwort is a short (10-20 cm usually) annual with leaves in whorls of four (usually) and small heads of purplish, greenish, or whitish flowers borne at the ends of the leafy branches. The leaves are entire. Whorled milkwort (P. verticillata), which is more common in Maine, differs in having its more slender flower clusters on long, basically leafless stalks that arise from the leaf axils.

Ecological characteristics: Nothing is currently known of Polygala cruciata in Maine.

Phenology: Flowers July - September. Milkworts are recognized by their irregular (zygomorphic) flowers. The lower petal is keeled and ornamented with fringe-like crests.

Family: Polygalaceae

Synonyms: Represented in Maine by the variety aquilonia Fern. & Schub.

Known Distribution in Maine: This rare plant has historically been documented from a total of 2 town(s) in the following county(ies): Cumberland, York.

Dates of documented observations are: 1901, 1903

Reason(s) for rarity: Habitat naturally scarce and with clearing and cultivation, may be declining.

Conservation considerations: Unknown; no current locations for this species are documented.