Lewton’s Milkwort represents an extremely rare type of flowering plant in the Milkwort family. Fewer than 200 individual specimens currently remain extant.
In addition, only 49 concentrations of the plant are known. All of these grow in one severely restricted section of the United States. Most of these contain only a few individuals.
The Lewton’s Milkwort also appears to be highly threatened by habitat loss. The principal cause of this habitat loss happens to be urban development.
Yet, the United States government now, fortunately, officially lists it as an endangered species.
Lewton’s Milkwort Physical Description
The Lewton’s Milkwort forms a variety of small, but gorgeous, perennial plant. That’s because the delicate stems attain a maximum height of about 8 in (20 cm). However, they are usually smaller than that.
The dark green leaves grow small and overlap. The Lewton’s Milkwort remains unique in one sense. It actually produces three different types of flowers on the same plant.
The herbaceous plant produces an inflorescence of bright pink flowers on each stem.
A different type of flower also blooms at the base of the plant. These do not open, and actually, self-pollinate.
The third type blossoms white in color but actually remains underground.
Botanists know this combination of reproductive methods as amphicarpy. Fewer than 100 known species utilize this method.
Lewton’s Milkwort Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The Lewton’s Milkwort inhabits the central ridge of the Florida peninsula, in the United States. Within that range, it primarily inhabits the Sandhills portions of the region.
It also occurs in a few transition zones between the sandhills and scrubland. Many of the occurrences of this milkwort occur on lands that, thankfully, now enjoy federal protection.
Uniquely, this perennial actually suffers from the presence of fire suppression measures in the area. Naturally occurring wildfires actually help this species, by removing competing flora.
Though the Lewton’s Milkwort naturally gets burned, the plant as a whole survives, due to its extremely long taproot.