Polygala senega (Seneca Snakeroot) - photos and description

 

Polygala senega

Polygala senega

Polygala senega

General: Decumbent to erect with many stems arising from the central rootstalk. Stems sparsely hairy.

Flowers: Inflorescence is an oblong spike of small white flowers - spike measured at 4 cm long, flower measured at 3 mm long.

Leaves: Stems are leafy, the leaves are all cauline, alternate, entire, lanceolate. Leaf highlighted in photo above was 4 cm long and 9 mm wide. Leaf margins, top and bottom are minutely puberulent.

Height: Height listed in Budd's Flora to 50 cm. We measured plants to 33 cm tall.

Habitat: Open woods and prairies in the parklands and boreal forest.

Abundance: Fairly common.

Origin: Native.

Similar species: This plant might be mistaken for Polygala alba which has a similar growth habit and inflorescence. However that plant has linear leaves, whereas Polygala senega has lanceolate leaves. Budd's Flora and Taxonomic Reminder for Recognizing Saskatchewan Plants also both list as a distinguishing characteristic the shape of the inflorescence - oblong for P. senega, cylindrical for P. alba. I haven't found this helpful because I've seen oblong spikes on both plant species.

When and where photographed: The above photos were taken June 2nd, prairie roadside about 70 km southeast of Regina, SK, and, June 19th and July 3rd, edge of mixed woods, boreal forest, about 400 km north of Regina, Saskatchewan.