Although irregular and superficially resembling those of the Fabaceae (Pea or Legume) family, Milkwort flowers are really very different. The side sepals are larger than the others and colored like the petals, and the uppermost sepal is keeled (ridged in a way that resembles two connected petals or sepals.) There are 3 petals, united at the base, with the lower one boat-shaped and enclosing the 8 stamens and the pistil style. The fruit forming part of the pistil is partitioned into 2 halves, with each producing a single seed.
"Polygala" is latin for "much milk" - it was believed that cattle feeding on these plants would produce more milk - hence also the name "Milkwort".
Only one species of Polygala is found in the bay area, and it is also found on Montara Mountain: Polygala californica (California Milkwort)
Flowers: Rose - pink/purple, pea - like, one-half inch long; in clusters at tips of stems.
Blooms: March - July.
Leaves: One-half to 1.5 inches long, simple and smooth.
Location: Dry, shady trails and areas. Hazelnut trail in San Pedro Valley County Park.
Status: Native - Common.
Further description & Comment: 3 inches to 1 foot tall, small bush with many stems.
Photo by Bill and Barbara VanderWerf.
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