Polygala vulgaris   Milkwort CCC DD N

Polygala vulgaris whole Polygala vulgaris pink Polygala vulgaris blue

The flowers are quite small on P. vulgaris but can be plentiful. This is the sort of plant you notice when you've paused to rest on a sunny hillside in late spring or early summer. When I first noticed it on the valley slopes in Cressbrookdale, I found a pale blue one. Then I found a pink one and wondered to my colleagues if it was another sub species. Then I found a purple one, a mauve one and a white one. This glorious little plant can be all of these colours and various shades in between and it is still the same plant species.

The English name comes from an interpretation of the writings of Pedanius Dioscorides a botanist at the time of Nero who wrote much about the uses of plants and was arguably the very first botanist who attempted a classification. He wrote that this plant was believed to make milk more abundant although he didn't say whether he meant the milk from nursing mothers or cow's milk. So in the days of herbal medicine milkwort was prescribed for nursing mothers.

In Galway they believed that fairies made lather from the roots and leaves of this plant hence its Irish name Fairy Soap.

Polygala vulgaris is found throughout the British Isles and Ireland and even on the outer islands.

Polygala vulgaris

Polygala vulgaris Milkwort

Near Blackhead, County Clare Ireland 21st May 2005

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Polygala vulgaris Milkwort

LHS: Ardersier, Scotland 6th June 06 Mid: Great Orme, Wales 4th May 05 RHS: Fanore, Clare Ireland 24th May 05

Added on December 5th 2004, updated 17th July 2011, updated 11th November 2014

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