Velvetseed Milkwort

Velvetseed Milkwort (Polygala obscura) is found in the southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and in neighboring Mexico. Here in southeastern Arizona, this native, perennial subshrub or herb blooms in the summer with our monsoon rains. Although Velvetseed Milkwort has deceptively pea-like flowers, it is in a different family, the Milkwort Family (Polygalaceae).

Velvetseed Milkwort (Polygala obscura) flowers and seed capsule

Velvetseed Milkwort flowers are bilaterally symmetrical and have two, purple, petal-like lateral sepals that either flare outward like wings on either side of the flower or fold together to cover the keel petal at the center of the flower. The flowers are followed by plump, green seed capsules that are covered with a distinctive velvety fuzz. These seed capsules later dry to become flat, translucent seed disks.

The leaves and stems of Velvetseed Milkwort are also coated with velvety fuzz. The leaves are alternate, medium to light green, and broadly linear to lanceolate in shape.

The very similar Blue Milkwort (Polygala barbeyana) is also found here, but it has narrower leaves and glabrous (hairless) seed capsules.