Today’s entry was written by Claire:
Jacki Dougan (aka jacki-dee@Flickr) of Portland, Oregon provided us with this image of Polygala chamaebuxus. It was photographed after the snowfall that besieged the Pacific Northwest last week (via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Thank you and stay warm Jacki!
Polygala chamaebuxus belongs to a genus containing several hundred species, but the total number remains unclear until further study defines the limit of the genus (which of these closely-related species belong to Polygala and which are sufficiently different to be in a separate genus?), according to the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group: Polygalaceae. The family, however, contains approximately 940 recognized species. Some of you may know the milkworts, named as a group due to some European medieval time (incorrect) beliefs that the species Polygala amara stimulated breastmilk production. First Nations of North America and subsequent European colonizers used a different species, Polygala senega or snakeroot, as a remedy for snake bites, insect bites, and respiratory illnesses.
Polygala chamaebuxus, commonly called shrubby milkwort, is not known for having (or not) either of these properties, but it is a lovely evergreen shrub. Native to the mountains of central Europe, in milder climates it blooms in the late winter to early spring (and can sometimes bloom on and off all winter long). Paghat writes of Polygala chamaebuxus var. grandiflora ‘Kamniski’, and makes mention of fragrant flowers with a pleasant, waxy smell.