Botanical Survey of India | Flora of India

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Herbs, shrubs or treelets, sometimes spiny, annuals or perennials. Leaves simple, alternate or spirally arranged, exstipulate. Flowers in terminal or lateral racemes; bracts small, persistent or caducous, bracteoles 2, caducous or persistent. Sepals 5, caducous or usually wholly or partially persistent, unequal; wing sepals (inner) the largest, often petaloid. Petals 3, 2 upper ones (lateral) basally adnate to the staminal tube; lower one (keel) boat-shaped, clawed at base with the basal part above claw sometimes auricled, entire or bearing a dorsal crest consisting of 2 lobes, each entire or divided into various number of appendages. Stamens 8, monadelphous with filaments united basally for varying lengths into a tubular staminal tube split on one side; anthers essile on mouth of tube or with free filaments above the tube. Ovary laterally compressed, 2-loculed, each with one anatropous ovule, pendulous from apex; style terminal, variously curved, flattened and dilated towards apex; stigma lateral, oblique or spaced into 2 Spots. Capsules flattened-compressed, mostly margined, sometimes with a double wing, dehiscing loculicidally by marginal split, 2-seeded, often enclosed in persistent sepals or wing sepals. Seeds oblong, mostly dark, densely or sparsely hairy with a cap-like entire or lobed caruncle at micropylar part close to the attachment of the funicle, sometimes with a black glossy strophiole (appendage) at the other end.

Around the World in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions, herbaceous species usually not seen in primary forests, common in woodlands, grasslands, roadsides, wastelands and cultivated fields; ca 500 species, 27 in India.

Notes. The fragrance of the roots when pulled out fresh from the soil is a sure generic character (Mathew, Fl. Tamilnadu Carnatic 1: 64. 1983).

Literature. ADEMA, F. (1966) A review of the herbaceous Polygala in Malesia (Polygalaeae). Blumea 14: 253 - 356, ff. 1 - 19. CHANDRABOSE, M. & N.C. NAIR (1981). The genus Polygala L. (Polygalaceae) in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu (south India). Proc. Indian Acad. Sci. (Plant Sci.) 90: 107 - 127, ff. 1 - 176. MUKERJEE, S.K. (1958) A synopsis of Indian and Burmese Polygala. Bull. Bot. Soc. Bengal 12: 29 - 49, t. 1. PAUL, S. R. & A. L. KHARBANDA (1975) Revision of the genus Polygala from India (Polygalaceae) 1. The species of the Bihar and Orissa. Bangladesh J. Bot. 4: 49 - 58. PAL, G. D. & G. S. GIRI (1990) Distributional notes on Polygala Linn. (Polygalaceae) from Arunachal Pradesh. J. Econ. Tax. Bot. 14: 225 - 228. SMITH, R. R. & D. B. WARD (1976) Taxonomy of the genus Polygala, series Decurrentes (Polygalaceae). Sida 6(4): 284 - 310. SHARMA, M. L. & P. N. MEHRA (1978) Chromosome numbers in some northwest Indian species of Polygala. Cytologia (Japan) 43: 589 - 593.


1a. Sepals caducous after flowering 2
b. Sepals or at least wing sepals persistent in fruits 4
2a. Keel petal split at apex, not crested; capsules notched, bipapillate at apex 23. Polygala tartarinowii
b. Keel petal entire at apex, crested; capsule not bipapillate at apex 3
3a. Herbs, up to 25 cm high; wing sepals clawed at base; keel petal crested with 2 flap-like appendages 10. Polygala furcata
b. Shrubs, more than 1 m high; wing sepals not clawed at base; keel petal crested with more than 8 flattened forked appendages 2. Polygala arillata
4a. Leaves usually petiolate; petioles 5 - 15 mm long 5
b. Leaves usually sessile or subsessile; petioles up to 2 mm long 9
5a. Herbs, less than 1 m tall; stems weak; crest usually 2-lobed; disc flat 26. Polygala umbonata
b. Shrubs, 2 m or more high; stems woody; crest much branched; disc cupular 6
6a. Stems with projecting cicatrices of fallen leaves; leaves coriaceous; racemes paniculate, erect; outer solitary sepal gibbous; anthers conical 25. Polygala tricholopha
b. Stems smooth; leaves membranous or chartaceous; racemes unbranched, drooping; outer sepals concave, not gibbous; anthers linear oblong 7
7a. Leaves not glaucous beneath, green on drying; crest consisting of plicate convolute appendages; seeds glabrous 11. Polygala globulifera
b. Leaves glaucous beneath, not green on drying; crest consisting of linear forked appendages; seeds hairy 8
8a. Branches blackish in colour; leaves membranous; flowers pale lilac in colour; ovary sessile, subglobose; fruits suborbicular; seed hairs less than 1 mm long, whitish 16. Polygala karensium
b. Branches greenish; leaves subcoriaceous; flowers greenish yellow or brown; ovary oblong, stipitate; fruits clavate; seed hairs ca 5 mm long, brownish 19. Polygala mariesii
9a. Wing sepals broader above the middle, acute to obtuse at apex 10
b. Wing sepals broader below the middle, acute to acuminate at apex 17
10a. Wing sepals falcate, acute; petals lavender blue; lateral lobes linear-oblong; middle lobe rounded 22. Polygala sibirica
b. Wing sepals not falcate, or If falcate, then obtuse; petals purple or yellow; lateral lobes obovate, middle lobe acute 11
11a. Capsules glabrous 12
b. Capsules hipsid puberulous or at least ciliate along margins 14
12a. Stems sharply angular and deeply furrowed; racemes dense-flowered; wing sepals symmetric 18. Polygala longifolia
b. Stems terete; racemes lax-flowered; wing sepals asymmetric 13
13a. Stems with conspicuous cicatrices of fallen leaves; bracts and sepals hairy; lateral petals equal to or longer than keel petal; caruncle 2-lobed 12. Polygala irregularis
b. Stems without such cicatrices; bracts and sepals glabrous; lateral petals much shorter than keel petal; caruncle 3-lobed 1. Polygala abyssinica
14a. Stems and racemes dichotomously branched above; wing sepals symmetric, suborbicular, rounded, not mucronate at apex 20. Polygala persicariifolia
b. Stems and racemes not dichotomously branched; wing sepals asymmetric, elliptic-oblong, obtuse and mucronate at apex 15
15a. Leaf margins recurved; wing sepals with anastomosing veinlets forming a hyaline zone along margins; petals pink; crest consisting of 2 bundles of appendages 9. Polygala erioptera
b. Leaf margins flat; wing sepals not with hyaline zone along margins; petals blue, purple or purplish white; crest consisting of one or three bundles of appendages 16
16a. Stems terete throughout; leaves large, up to 6 x 2.8 cm; flowers ca 7 mm long; bracts persistent; outer sepals ca 2.5 mm long; wing sepals 9 - 11-nerved; petals 6 - 8 mm long, purple or purplish white 7. Polygala crotalarioides
b. Stems terete below, angled above; leaves smaller, ca 3 x 0.8 cm; flowers ca 3 mm long; bracts caducous; outer sepals ca 1.5 mm long; wing sepals 3 - 5-nerved; petals ca 4 mm long, blue 24. Polygala telephioides
17a. Racemes longer than leaves 18
b. Racemes shorter than leaves 22
18a. Wing sepals symmetric, triangular, obovate, elliptic, blunt at apex, petaloid 19
b. Wing sepals asymmetric, subfalcate, oblong to elliptic, acute at apex, green, not petaloid 20
19a. Wing sepals triangular, hairy; anthers on filaments at mouth of staminal tube; fruits oblong, subquad- rangular, notched at both ends, narrowly winged around, puberulous. 15. Polygala Javana
b. Wing sepals elliptic, glabrous; anthers sessile at mouth of staminal tube; fruits suborbicular, obcordate, broadly winged at apex, glabrous 14. Polygala Japonica
20a. Middle lobe of petals distinctly auricled at base; ovary glabrous; style with 2 wings near apex; filaments above tube grouped into 3 bundles, consisting of 2 half united bundles in middle and 3 each on either side 27. Polygala wightiana
b. Middle lobe of petals not auricled at base; ovary hairy or ciliate at apex; style not winged; filaments above tube not so grouped 21
21a. Racemes 10 - 20 cm long; middle lobe of petals hairy at clawed base; capsules asymmetric, unequally lobed at apex, oblong-rhomboid; seeds long hairy 8. Polygala elongata
b. Racemes up to 9 cm long; middle lobe of petals glabrous at base; capsules symmetric, equally lobed at apex, suborbicular, seeds short hairy 4. Polygala bulbothrix
22a. Free portion of filaments on staminal tube of much different lengths; filaments in 3 groups with 2 free filaments in centre and 2 bundles of 3 connate filaments each on either side 5. Polygala buxiformis
b. Free portion of filaments on staminal tube of almost same length; all filaments free almost to the mouth of tube 23
23a. Branching erect upwards; racemes and flowers erect; outer sepals obovate-oblong, mucronulate at apex 21. Polygala rosmarinifolia
b. Branching prostrate, decumbent or ascending; flowers drooping; outer sepals ovate-falcate, acuminate at apex 24
24a. Caruncle with broad membranous winged appendages, covering more than half the length of seeds 13. Polygala jacobii
b. Caruncle with shortly toothed or linear to narrowly oblong appendages covering less than half the length of seeds 25
25a. Prostrate or decumbent weak herbs; leaves orbicular or oblong-obovate, up to 4 cm long; caruncle appendages subequal 3. Polygala arvensis
b. Erect stout herbs; stems woody; leaves linear to linear-lanceolate or oblong-ovate to oblong-lanceolate, 4 - 9 cm long; caruncle appendages equal 26
26a. Leaves up to 10 mm broad, linear or linear-lanceolate, outer sepals obovate-oblong; petals yellowish or dull orange; stigma hooded 17. Polygala linarifolia
b. Leaves 10 - 25 mm broad, oblong-elliptic; petals white with purple or violet tips; stigma bilobed 6. Polygala chinensis

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