Lewton’s Milkwort Facts
- Most notably, the delicate Lewton’s Milkwort represents an extremely rare type of flowering plant. Quite sadly, fewer than 200 known individual specimens survive of this member of the Milkwort Family.
- In addition, only 49 concentrations of the plant are known to exist. All of these grow in one severely restricted section of North America. Understandably, therefore, most of these contain only a few plants.
- Further, the primary threat that it 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.
- Finally, the government of the country it evolved in officially lists it as an Endangered Species. However, the IUCN currently lists it as Vulnerable.
Lewton’s Milkwort Physical Description
First of all, 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, most individuals usually remain smaller.
Also, the dark green leaves generally grow small and overlap each other. Furthermore, this species remains unique in one sense. 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 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.
- 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 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.
It also occurs in a few transition zones between the sandhills and scrubland, however. But, many of the occurrences of this milkwort occur on lands that, thankfully, now enjoy federal protection.
Also uniquely, this perennial actually suffers from the presence of fire suppression measures in the area. That’s because naturally occurring wildfires actually help this species, by removing competing flora. Though it naturally gets burned, the plant as a whole survives, due to its extremely long taproot.