September bush Polygala myrtifolia, photographed by Raimond Spekking.

Belongs within: Fabales.

The Polygalaceae are a family of flowering plants including the milkworts and related taxa. Members of the Polygalaceae often have flowers with the lower petal keeled. Trees of the genus Xanthophyllum are used as a source of fine wood and have flowers with five petals as opposed to the three petals of other Polygalaceae. The largest genus, Polygala, is distributed worldwide and includes herbs, shrubs and small trees with compressed, two-seeded, capsular fruit.

Characters (from Chen, Ma & Parnell): Perennial or annual herbs or shrubs or trees, rarely small herbs (the latter sometimes saprophytic). Leaves simple, alternate, opposite, or whorled, petiolate or sessile, papery or leathery, with pinnate veins, margin entire, leaves rarely reduced and scalelike; stipules absent, sometimes spiniform or scalelike appendages present. Flowers bisexual, zygomorphic, white, yellow, or purple-red, pedicellate or sessile, in axillary or terminal racemes, panicles, or spikes, with bracts and usually also with bracteoles. Calyx persistent or caducous; sepals 5, free or connate at base, outer 3 small, inner 2 (alae) large, petal-like, or all 5 nearly equal. Petals 3 or 5, basally often connate, lower (median) one ("keel") usually inflexed, carinate, sometimes with fimbriate or lamellate or papilionaceous apical appendages. Stamens 8, 7, 5, or 4; filaments free, or variously united and forming a sheath open on upper side and troughlike; anthers basifixed, usually dehiscing by a single apical pore. Disk usually absent, if present annular or glandular. Ovary superior, 1- or 2-loculed; ovule 1 per locule, anatropous, pendulous, rarely ovules numerous and placentas parietal; style 1, erect or curved; stigmas 1 or 2, capitate. Fruit a 2-loculed capsule, dehiscing by valves, or a 1-loculed samara or a berrylike drupe, dehiscing or not. Seeds 2, or 1 with 1 sterile locule, yellow-brown, dark castaneous, or black, ovoid, globose, or ellipsoidal, glabrous or piliferous, strophiolate or not, with or without endosperm, sometimes with an appendage at end opposite to strophiole.

<==Polygalaceae [Polygaleae]
    |--Xanthophyllum H03
    `--Moutabeeae H03
         |--Balgoya H03
         `--+--Eriandra H03
            `--Diclidanthera forrestii H03, EF04

Polygalaceae incertae sedis:
  Polygala LBM08
    |--P. acanthoclada H93
    |--P. (subg. Polygala) altomontana Lüdtke, Boldrini & Miotto 2008 LBM08
    |--P. arilata D07
    |--P. californica CP13
    |--P. cornuta H93
    |    |--P. c. var. cornuta H93
    |    `--P. c. var. fishiae [incl. P. cornuta var. pollardii] H93
    |--P. cruciata WM09
    |--P. eriocephala LK14
    |--P. erioptera PP07
    |--P. exsquarrosa LK14
    |--P. galeocephala LK14
    |--P. guerichiana CV06
    |--P. heterorhyncha [=P. subspinosa var. heterorhyncha] H93
    |--P. intermontana [incl. P. acanthoclada var. intricata] H93
    |--P. linariifolia LK14
    |--P. longifolia LK14
    |--P. monspeliaca PT98
    |--P. myrtifolia GK00
    |--P. nicaeensis Risso ex Koch 1839 PL04
    |    |--P. n. ssp. nicaeensis PL04
    |    `--P. n. ssp. mediterranea Chodat 1889 PL04
    |--P. orbicularis LK14
    |--P. paucifolia NDA05
    |--P. penaea J87
    |--P. sabulosa LBM08
    |--P. subspinosa H93
    `--P. wightiana LK14
  Comesperma LK14
    |--C. calymega GK00
    |--C. ciliatum GK00
    |--C. drummondii GK00
    |--C. ericinum H87
    |--C. flavum GK00
    |--C. integerrimum OS04
    |--C. scoparium OS04
    |--C. secundum LK14
    |--C. sylvestre C08
    |--C. virgatum GK00
    `--C. volubile G04
  Salomonia LK14
    |--S. ciliata LK14
    `--S. oblongifolia H09
  Securidaca WM09
    |--S. diversifolia WM09
    `--S. virgata J87
  Monnina MM96
    |--M. phytolaccifolia CP13
    `--M. xalapensis MM96
  ‘Psilastephanocolporites’ fissilis CBH93

*Type species of generic name indicated


[C08] Cambage, R. H. 1908. Notes on the native flora of New South Wales. Part VI. Deepwater to Torrington and Emmaville. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 33 (1): 45–65, pls 1–2.

[CP13] Cardoso, D., R. T. Pennington, L. P. de Queiroz, J. S. Boatwright, B.-E. Van Wyk, M. F. Wojciechowski & M. Lavin. 2013. Reconstructing the deep-branching relationships of the papilionoid legumes. South African Journal of Botany 89: 58–75.

[CBH93] Collinson, M. E., M. C. Boulter & P. L. Holmes. 1993. Magnoliophyta (‘Angiospermae’). In: Benton, M. J. (ed.) The Fossil Record 2 pp. 809–841. Chapman & Hall: London.

[CV06] Craven, P., & P. Vorster. 2006. Patterns of plant diversity and endemism in Namibia. Bothalia 36 (2): 175–189.

[D07] Dash, S. S. 2007. Useful plants of Kabi Sacred Grove, Sikkim. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 49: 79–88.

[EF04] Etten, E. J. B. van, & J. E. D. Fox. 2004. Vegetation classification and ordination of the central Hamersley Ranges, Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 87 (2): 63–79.

[G04] Gibson, N. 2004. Flora and vegetation of the Eastern Goldfields Ranges: part 7. Middle and South Ironcap, Digger Rock and Hatter Hill. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 87 (2): 49–62.

[GK00] Gibson, N., & G. J. Keighery. 2000. Flora and vegetation of the Byenup-Muir reserve system, south-west Western Australia. CALMScience 3 (3): 323–402.

[H87] Haviland, E. 1887. Flowering seasons of Australian plants. No. II. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, series 2, 1 (4): 1103–1104.

[H03] Heads, M. 2003. Ericaceae in Malesia: vicariance biogeography, terrane tectonics and ecology. Telopea 10 (1): 311–449.

[H09] Hedley, C. 1909. The Marine Fauna of Queensland: Address by the President of Section D. Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science: Brisbane.

[H93] Hickman, J. C. (ed.) 1993. The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California. University of California Press: Berkeley (California).

[J87] Judd, W. S. 1987. Floristic study of Morne La Visite and Pic Macaya National Parks, Haiti. Bulletin of the Florida State Museum—Biological Sciences 32 (1): 1–136.

[LBM08] Lüdtke, R., I. I. Boldrini & S. T. S. Miotto. 2008. Polygala altomontana (Polygalaceae), a new species from southern Brazil. Kew Bulletin 63 (4): 665–667.

[LK14] Lyons, M. N., G. J. Keighery, L. A. Gibson & T. Handasyde. 2014. Flora and vegetation communities of selected islands off the Kimberley coast of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 81: 205–244.

[MM96] Mound, L. A., & R. Marullo. 1996. The thrips of Central and South America: an introduction (Insecta: Thysanoptera). Memoirs on Entomology, International 6: 1–487.

[NDA05] Nickrent, D. L., J. P. Der & F. E. Anderson. 2005. Discovery of the photosynthetic relatives of the "Maltese mushroom" Cynomorium. BMC Evolutionary Biology 5: 38.

[OS04] Obbens, F. J., & L. W. Sage. 2004. Vegetation and flora of a diverse upland remnant of the Western Australian wheatbelt (Nature Reserve A21064). Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 87 (1): 19–28.

[PP07] Pandey, R. P., & P. M. Padhye. 2007. Studies on phytodiversity of Arid Machia Safari Park-Kailana in Jodhpur (Rajasthan). Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 49: 15–78.

[PT98] Panitsa, M., & D. Tzanoudakis. 1998. Contribution to the study of the Greek flora: flora and vegetation of the E Aegean islands Agathonisi and Pharmakonisi. Willdenowia 28: 95–116.

[PL04] Pohl, G., & I. Lenski. 2004. Zur Verbreitung und Vergesellschaftung von Pennisetum orientale Rich. in Nordeuböa (Griechenland) (Poaceae, Paniceae). Senckenbergiana Biologica 83 (2): 209–223.

[WM09] Wang, H., M. J. Moore, P. S. Soltis, C. D. Bell, S. F. Brockington, R. Alexandre, C. C. Davis, M. Latvis, S. R. Manchester & D. E. Soltis. 2009. Rosid radiation and the rapid rise of angiosperm-dominated forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 106 (10): 3853–3858.

Last updated: 30 March 2021.

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