Yellow Milkwort

Rugel's milkwort or Yellow Milkwort (Polygala rugelii) is a great example of an annual herbaceous wildflower endemic to the Florida peninsula. Its showy flowers are bright yellow and borne in compact, thimble-shaped cluster.

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Yellow Milkwort (Polygala rugelii) Closeup

Seminole State Forest

Because this spectacular wildflower occurs only in pine flatwoods and wet prairies you won't often see them unless you make a real effort.

Yellow Milkwort (Polygala rugelii)

Merritt Island National Wildlife Preserve, Kennedy Parkway

The species name, rugelii, refers to the British-born botanist and physician Ferdinand Rugel (1806-1879), who collected and named many plants throughout the southeastern USA.

Yellow milkwort blooms primarily in summer and fall. The name Polygala comes from the Greek polys, which means "many or much," and gala, which means "milk." It is so-named because it was once believed that the presence of Polygala species in cow fields would result in higher milk production.

Yellow Milkwort (Polygala rugelii)

Florida Trail, Seminole State Forest

Most of these images were made on the Florida Trail in the Seminole State Forest which is a locked forest located in Lake County west of Sanford. When I got down on my hands and knees to make these images I was attached by both chiggers and biting flies. It was hardly worth the effort considering the pain and itching that persisted for a week after.

Yellow Milkwort (Polygala rugelii)

Seminole State Forest, Florida Trail

There is a more easily accessible, slightly less buggy location where you can find large stands of Yellow Milkwort this summer just outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center and the Canaveral National Seashore along the Kennedy Parkway.

Take 402 east out of Titusville toward Playalinda Beach entrance to the Canaveral National Seashore. When you reach the 4-way flashing light just outside the entrance of the National Seashore turn left (north) along the Kennedy Parkway. You'll immediately see large stands of Yellow Milkwort on the west side of the road. Bring your wading boots, however, as it is very wet prairie here.

On the day I made these photos, around the summer solstice, it was squishy wet even on dry-appearing ground and the biting flies were relentless (but there were no chiggers).

Family: Polygalaceae (Milkwort family)

Native Range: Peninsular Florida