Taprooted perennial; stems several to many, usually simple, 2-4 dm, glabrous; lower lvs narrowly oblanceolate, most cauline lvs linear, 1-2 mm wide; racemes long- pedunculate, slender, 3-8 cm נ5-8 mm, tapering to the tip, often interrupted below; fls white or greenish- white; wings elliptic, 2.5-4 mm, somewhat exceeding the cor; fr elliptic, twice as long as wide; seeds 2-2.5 mm, the aril to half as long; 2n=24, ca 72, 104-108. Prairies, rocky slopes, and barrens; N.D. to Tex., w. to Mont. and Ariz.; rep. from Minn. May-Aug.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Kearney and Peebles 1969, Martin and Hutchins 1980, Correll and Johnston 1970
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Perennial herb, 15-35 cm tall, from a woody taproot; stems many in a cluster, slender and mostly unbranched, grooved and angled. Leaves: Mostly alternate along the stems, with the leaves near the base sometimes in whorls; blades linear, 8-25 mm long and 1-2 mm wide; the whorls of leaves near bottom of stems are wider and early-deciduous. Flowers: White to lavender, in dense, spikelike racemes at the tops of the stems; sepals 5 per flower, the 3 outer sepals greenish to purplish and the inner 2 sepals much larger, white, and appearing petal-like; petals 3 per flower, the lowest petal keel-shaped, with an often purplish fringed crest, the other 2 petals (wings) white with a green center and fused to the stamen tube. Fruits: Capsule elliptic, 3 mm long, slightly flattened; splitting open longitudinally to release 2 seeds. Ecology: Found on dry plains and hills, from 5,000-7,500 ft (1524-2286 m); flowers May-September. Distribution: AZ, east to TX and north to ND, MT, and CAN; south to n MEX. Notes: Distinct with its cluster of few to many delicate slender, hairless stems from a branched base, making the plant's appearence anywhere from sparse-stemmed to broom-like; the leaves are linear to scale-like and alternate along the stems, with a few whorls of wider, early-deciduous leaves near the base of each stem; the upper few inches of each stem is lined with green- and purple-tinged white flowers. The flower buds are strongly purple-tinged, but the flowers appear much more white once they are open and mature. Flowers are followed by rounded to oval-shaped seed pods. P. scoparioides is similar but has pubescent stems; lacks the whorls of leaves near the bottom of the stems; and has winged seed pods. Ethnobotany: The Sioux made a decoction of the root to treat ear aches. Etymology: Polygala is from Greek polys, many or much, and gala, milk, for a European species said to increase milk production in lactating mothers; alba means white, alluding to the flower color. Synonyms: None Editor: LCrumbacher 2011, FSCoburn 2015, AHazelton 2017