Seneca snakeroot

(Polygala senega)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not listed

Seneca snakeroot

 

NatureServe

N4? - Apparently Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Wetland
Indicator
Status

Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland

Midwest

FACU - Facultative upland

Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland

Nativity

Native

Occurrence

Common

Habitat

Dry to moist. Woodlands, prairies, lake shores, river banks, railroads, roadsides and other disturbed sites. Full or partial sun. Loamy or rocky, often calcareous soil.

Flowering

May to June

 
Flower Color

White

 
Height

4 to 20

 
 
Identification

Seneca snakeroot is a common small wildflower. It occurs in the eastern United States and across Canada. In Minnesota it occurs in the northwest, central, and southeast regions and is mostly absent from the northeast and southwest regions. It is found in woodlands and prairies, on lake shores and river banks, along railroads and roadsides, and in other disturbed sites. It grows under full or partial sun in dry or moderately moist, loamy or rocky, often limey (calcareous) soil.

Seneca snakeroot is a 4 to 20 tall, erect or curved up from the base, perennial forb that rises on several stems from a taproot and fibrous roots. The taproot is dark brown, twisted, up to 5 (15 cm) long, and up to ½ wide. It is somewhat woody and often purplish toward the top. The rootstock spreads horizontally and usually has a cluster of several to many stems rising from it.

The stems are erect, round, unbranched, yellowish- or whitish-green, and often reddish-purple near the base. They are moderately to densely covered with inconspicuous, minute, curved hairs, at least toward the top.

The leaves are alternate, to 2¾ (15 to 70 mm) long, and to 1 (4 to 35 mm) wide. They are on short, 116to (2 to 3 mm) long leaf stalks. The leaf blades are narrowly lance-shaped, narrowly egg-shaped, or narrowly oval and widest in the middle (elliptic). The upper and lower surfaces are mostly hairless but may have a very few scattered hairs. The margins have minute, sharp, closely-spaced, forward pointing teeth.

The inflorescence is a dense, spike-like, to 2 (1.5 to 5 cm) long, unbranched cluster (raceme) at the end of each stem. The central axis of the raceme is covered with minute hairs. The flowers bloom from the bottom to the top.

The flowers are about wide. There are 5 outer floral leaves (sepals), 3 petals, 8 stamens, and 1 style. The upper sepal and lower pair of sepals are small and whitish-green. The lateral pair of sepals, referred to as wings, are petal-like, white, elliptic to nearly circular, and much larger, (3.0 to 3.7 mm) long. They are cupped, completely enclosing the corolla at first, then spreading widely as the flower matures. The petals are fused into a white, hairless, (2 to 3 mm) long tube. The lower petal (appearing central and referred to as the keel) is often fringed at the tip. The stamens have yellow anthers. The stalks of the stamens (filaments) are fused together. The style has 2 lobes near the tip. The upper lobe has a cap-like stigma. The lower lobe is sterile and has a fringe of hairs.

The fruit is a 116to (2.5 to 4.2 mm) long, almost orb-shaped capsule. It is somewhat flattened and shallowly notched at the tip.

 
Similar
Species

 

 
Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.

 
Comments

 

 
Taxonomy

Family:

Polygalaceae (milkwort)

 

Genus:

Polygala

 
Synonyms

Polygala senega var. latifolia

Polygala senega var. senega

 
Common
Names

Seneca snakeroot

senega snakeroot

senga-root

sengaroot

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Ascending

Curving upward from the base.

 

Corolla

A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.

 

Elliptic

Narrowly oval, broadest at the middle, narrower at both ends, with the ends being equal.

 

Filament

On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.

 

Raceme

An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.

 

Sepal

An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

       
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Clustered stems rising from a single horizontally spreading rootstock

  Seneca snakeroot   Seneca snakeroot
       
  Seneca snakeroot    
       

Single stem

  Seneca snakeroot   Seneca snakeroot
       

Inflorescence

  Seneca snakeroot   Seneca snakeroot
       
       

 

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  Polygala senaga SENECA SNAKEROOT
Frank Mayfield
 
  Polygala senaga SENECA SNAKEROOT  
     

 

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Created: 7/3/2020

Last Updated:

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