CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Polygala lewtonii

c. Steve Shirah

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Polygala lewtonii

Common Names: 
Lewton's milkwort, Lewton's polygala
Growth Habit: 
CPC Number: 


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Polygala lewtoniienlarge
Photographer: c. Steve Shirah

Polygala lewtoniienlarge
Photographer: c. Steve Shirah

Polygala lewtonii is Not Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Dorothy M. Brazis contributed to this Plant Profile.

Polygala lewtonii

P. lewtonii is a short-lived (5 to 10 year) perennial herb with one to several annual stems that grow up to 20 centimeters tall. Stems are spreading, upward-curving, or erect, and often branched. The narrow, succulent sessile leaves are 0.5 inches long, wider above the middle, and overlapping along the stem. The dark pink flowers occur in racemes and are about 0.5 cm long. This plant also produces smaller, cleistogamous flowers. Flowering occurs from February to May. (USFWS 1999)

This species is often overlooked and confused with its more common relative, Polygala polygama. This species can be distinguished from the rare P. lewtonii because it forms larger clumps, has a longer root, narrower leaves, and differently-shaped wing sepals. Its short branches hug the ground and bear inconspicuous self-pollinating flowers. (USFWS 1999)

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
State Range of  Polygala lewtonii
  P. lewtonii is found in white sand, scrub characterized by longleaf pine and low scrub oaks, including low turkey oak woods, and in transitional sandhill/scrub habitats. This species occasionally inhabits powerline clearings or new roadsides. (USFWS 1999)

This species is often found in the company of other federally listed plants, including Warea amplexifolia, Ziziphus celata, Prunus geniculata, Nolina brittoniana, and Eriogonum longifolium var. gnaphalifolium. (USFWS 1999)

  P. lewtonii is a Florida endemic found only on the Central Florida Ridge in Highlands, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties.

Number Left
  75 sites in Christman report, one protected at Tiger Creek sites in Highlands, Polk, Osceola, Lake, and Marion Counties (including Ocala National Forest.) Since the plant is easily overlooked or confused with similar species, it may be more abundant than surveys indicate.

Protected sites for this species include Ocala F, Lake Wales Ridge SF, Arbuckle SP, Catfish Creek SP, Tiger Creek Preserve, Pine Ridge Preserve at Bok Tower Gardens, and Highlands Hammock SP.


Global Rank:  
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Florida S2 LE 5/6/1991  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  Flowering racemes produce 20 to 25 flowers, and 85 to 100 percent of them often set fruit. This suggests that flowers are capable of self-pollination in the absence of pollinators. While a variety of insects have been observed visiting this species, the actual pollinators of this plant are unknown. (Weekley 1996)

Seeds are likely dispersed by ants, but this relationship has yet to be confirmed (Weekley 1996)

  The principal cause of decline is conversion of high pineland and scrub habitat for agricultural purposes (principally citrus groves), and for commercial, residential, and recreational purposes.

Current Research Summary
  The Nature Conservancy is mapping and monitoring P. lewtonii at the Tiger Creek Preserve.
Archbold Biological Station is conducting research on the fire response, reproductive biology, and demographics of this species.

Current Management Summary
  No active management known to be in progress.

Research Management Needs
  Preservation of the best known populations of Polygala lewtonii in Florida.
Determine significance of transitional sandhill/scrub habitats.
Fire management and implementation of prescribed burning schedules.
Monitoring the response of P. lewtonii to fire.
Research the life history and propagation of P. lewtonii since it has not been reported in the literature.
Annual field surveys of existing populations.

Ex Situ Needs
  Propagation and seed germination studies.


Books (Single Authors)

Coile, N.C. 2000. Notes on Florida's Regulated Plant Index (Rule 5B-40), Botany Contribution 38. Gainesville, Florida: Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry.

Radford, A.E.; Ahles, H.E.; Bell, C.R. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 1183p.

Small, J.K. 1933. Manual of the southeastern flora. New York, NY: Hafner Publishing Company. 1505p.

Taylor, W.K. 1992. The Guide to Florida Wildflowers. Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Company. 320p.

Ward, D.B. 1979. Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida Volume 5: Plants. Gainseville, FL: University Presses of Florida.

Wunderlin, R.P. 1998. Guide to the vascular plants of Florida. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida. 806p.

Books (Sections)

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Pace-Aldana, B.; Gordon, D.R.; Slapcinsky, J. 2000. Monitoring of Lewton's polygala (Polygala lewtonii) on the Lake Wales Ridge. In: Gordon, D.R.; Slapcinsky, J.L., editors. Annual Research Report: A Compilation of Research Conducted or Supported by The Nature Conservancy in Florida. Florida Science and Stewardship Programs and The Nature Conservancy.

Electronic Sources

(2002). Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. [Web site] University of South Florida Institute for Systematic Botany. http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/isb/default.htm. Accessed: 2008.

Denton, S. (2001). Photo Library of Native and Naturalized Plants of Florida. Biological Research Associates. http://www.biolresearch.com/Plants/index.php?id=C. Accessed: 2002.

Journal Articles

Abrahamson, W.G. 1984. Post-fire Recovery of Florida Lake Wales Ridge Vegetation. American Journal of Botany. 71, 1: 9-21.

Abrahamson, W.G. 1984. Species response to fire on the Florida Lake Wales Ridge. American Journal of Botany. 71, 1: 35-43.

Blake, S.F. 1924. Polygalaceae. North American Flora. 24, 4, 5: 305-374.

Duever, L.C. 1983. Natural communities of Florida's inland sand ridges. Palmetto. 3, 3: 1-3.

James, C.W. 1957. Notes on the cleistogamous species of Polygala in the southeastern United States. Rhodora. 59: 51-56.

Menges, E.S.; Gordon, D.R. 1996. Three levels of monitoring intensity for rare plant species. Natural Areas Journal. 16, 3: 227-237.

Small, J.K. 1898. Studies in botany of the southern [southeastern] United States. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 25: 134-181.

USFWS. 1993. Endangered or threatened status for seven central Florida plants. Federal Register. 58, 79: 25746-25755.


Christman, S.P. 1988. Endemism and Florida's interior sand pine scrub. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. p.247 + maps, tables & appendices. Final project report on project #GFC-84-101.

Klaudisova, A. 1991. Monitoring of Polygala lewtonii, Nolina brittoniana, Prunus geniculata, Crotalaria avonensis, and Bonamia grandiflora in the Lake Wales Ridge area, Polk County, Florida. The Nature Conservancy.

Kral, R. 1983. A report on some rare, threatened or endangered forest related vascular plants of the south. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Forest Service. p.718. USFS technical publication R8-TP2, . Vol. 1.

Kral, R. 1983. A report on some rare, threatened, or endangered forest-related vascular plants of the South. Athens, GA: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service. p.1305. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service Technical.

MacAllister, B.A.; Harper, M.G. 1998. Management of Florida Scrub for Threatened and Endangered Species. US Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratories. p.95. USACERL Technical Report 99/19.

TNC. 1987. The Nature Conservancy Stewardship Abstracts. The Nature Conservancy. p.104.

USFWS. 1996. Recovery Plan for Nineteen Central Florida Scrub and High Pineland Plants (revised). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. p.134.

USFWS. 1999. South Florida Multi-species Recovery Plan. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region.

Weekley, Carl. 1996. Polygala lewtonii Monitoring Report #1. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Division of Forestry: Statewide Endangered and Threatened Plant Conservation Program.

Weekley, Carl. 1996. Some Observations on the Reproductive Biology of Polygala lewtonii. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Division of Forestry: Statewide Endangered and Threatened Plant Conservation Program.

Weekley, Carl. 1997. Polygala lewtonii Annual Monitoring Report. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Division of Forestry: Statewide Endangered and Threatened Plant Conservation Program.

Weekley, Carl. 1998. Polygala lewtonii Monitoring Report. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Division of Forestry: Statewide Endangered and Threatened Plant Conservation Program.

Weekley, Carl. Not dated. Some Observations on the Reproductive Biology of Polygala lewtonii. Tallahassee, Florida: Florida Division of Forestry: Statewide Endangered and Threatened Plant Conservation Program.

Wunderlin, R.P.; Richardson, D.; Hansen, B. 1981. Status report on Polygala lewtonii. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Office, Region 4.

  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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