Lewton’s Milkwort Facts
- Perhaps most notably, the delicate species known as the Lewton’s Milkwort represents an extremely rare type of flowering plant. Quite sadly, it now ranks as extremely rare. In fact, fewer than 200 known individual specimens survive of this member of the Milkwort Family.
- In addition, these plants appear in small groupings. That’s because only 49 known concentrations of the plant currently exist. Furthermore, all of these grow in one severely restricted section of North America. Understandably, therefore, most of these contain only a few plants.
- Additionally, the primary threat that that this marvelous plant faces appears to be that of habitat loss. Also, not surprisingly, given its range, the principal cause of this habitat loss happens to be urban development. Mankind is quickly encroaching on what’s left of its habitat.
- Finally, the government of the country the Lewton’s Milkwort evolved in officially lists it as an Endangered Species. However, the IUCN currently lists it as Vulnerable. Nevertheless, both rankings could change, since it now also faces the ongoing threat of climate change.
Lewton’s Milkwort Physical Description
First of all, the magnificient Lewton’s Milkwort forms a variety of small, but gorgeous, perennial plant. That’s because the delicate stems do not reach great heights. In fact, these attain a maximum measured height of about 8 in (20 cm). However, most individuals usually stay somewhat smaller than that.
Also, the dark green leaves of the plant generally grow comparatively small. These also most commonly overlap each other. Furthermore, this fascinating species remains quite unique in one sense. That’s due to the fact that it actually produces three different types of flowers on the same plant.
Firstly, the herbaceous plant produces an inflorescence of bright pink flowers on each stem. Secondly, a different type of flower also blooms at the base of the plant. These, however, do not open, and actually, self-pollinate. The third type blossoms white in color but actually remains underground.
Finally, botanists know this rare and remarkable combination of reproductive methods as amphicarpy. Fewer than 100 known species in the entire world utilize this fascinating method. Yet another manner in which the remarkable Lewton’s Milkwort separates itself from other species.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Angiosperms
- Class: Eudicots
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Polygalaceae
- Genus: Polygala
- Species: P. lewtonii
Lewton’s Milkwort Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The quite remarkable Lewton’s Milkwort inhabits an extremely limited habitat range. That’s because it only appears in the central ridge of the Florida peninsula, in the United States. In addition, within that range, it primarily inhabits what is known as the Sandhills portions of the region.
Furthermore, it also occurs in a few transition zones between the sandhills and scrubland. But, many of the occurrences of this milkwort occur on lands that, thankfully, now enjoy federal protection. This serves to provide the terribly rare plant with at least a modicum of protection from extinction.
Also uniquely, this perennial actually suffers from the presence of fire suppression measures in the area. That’s because naturally occurring wildfires actually help the Lewton’s Milkwort, by removing competing flora. Though it naturally gets burned, the plant as a whole survives, due to its extremely long taproot.