Lewton's Polygala

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Lewton's Polygala

Polygala lewtonii

ListedApril 27, 1993
FamilyPolygalaceae (Milkwort)
DescriptionPerennial with upward-curving stems, often branched, and small leaves overlapping the stems like shingles.
HabitatDry upland communities in central Florida, and in coastal scrub community in northwestern Florida.
ThreatsConversion to citrus groves, pasture, and urban developments.


Polygala lewtonii (Lewton's polygala) is a perennial with a taproot that produces one to several annual stems, which are spreading, upward-curving, or erect, and are often branched. The leaves are small, sessile, rather succulent, broader toward the tip, and are borne upright, tending to overlap along the stem, like shingles. The normally opening flowers are in erect, loosely flowered racemes up to 0.6 in (1.5 cm) long. The racemes are about 0.2 in (0.5 cm) long and are bright pink or purplish-red. Each flower is about 0.14 in (0.36 cm) long. Two of the five sepals are enlarged and wing-like, between which the largest of the three petals forms a keel that ends in a tuft of finger-like projections.


Lewton's polygala occurs in dry upland communities in central Florida including scrub, high pine, or intermediate "turkey oak barrens" and in the coastal scrub community in the northwestern part of the state. Lewton's polygala is most often found in the habitats intermediate between high pine and scrub (turkey oak barrens) but does occur in both habitats.


Lewton's polygala has been collected in Highlands, Polk, Osceola, Lake, and Marion counties.

The plant is currently found in Polk County on the Arbuckle State Forest and Park, the state's Cat-fish creek land acquisition project, The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Tiger Creek Preserve, and in the Poinciana residential development.

This species also occurs on Ocala National Forest in Marion County.


Large sections of the high pine and scrub communities along Florida's Lake Wales Ridge have been and still are being converted to citrus groves, pasture and urban developments. Up to 85% of the estimated 546,800 acres (221,283 hectares) of xeric upland vegetation originally found in Polk and Highlands counties have been lost or altered.

Citrus groves are being expanded rapidly on the southern Lake Wales Ridge because the area escaped the worst effects of severe freezes during the 1980s.

This species is being displaced by the conversion of high pine and scrub communities to agriculture. It is also coming under pressure from property taxation that favors agriculture, human activities, and a limited geographic distribution.

Conservation and Recovery

The Lewton's polygala occurs in Arbuckle State Forest and Park, the Catfish Creek land acquisition project, Ocala National Forest, and the Tiger Creek Preserve of TNC, a private conservation organization. These habitats are being managed to maintain their natural condition. The other critical habitats of the Lewton's polygala are on private land and are potentially threatened by development and other human influences. This habitat should be protected by acquiring the land and designating ecological reserves, or by negotiating conservation easements with the landowners. The populations of the Lewton's polygala should be monitored, and research undertaken into its biology, habitat needs, and beneficial management practices.


Wildlife and Habitat Management Office
6620 Southpoint Dr. South, Suite 310
Jacksonville, Florida 32216-0958
Telephone: (904) 232-2580
Fax: (904) 232-2404

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Regional Office, Division of Endangered Species
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 27 April 1993. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered or Threatened Status for Seven Central Florida Plants." Federal Register 58(79): 25746-25755.