Senega officinalis Spach

Locations ofSenega officinalis Spach in Virginia

Show image with county labels


Botanical Name
Senega officinalis Spach
Common Name
Seneca Snakeroot
Polygala senega L.; Polygala senega L. var. senega; Polygala senega L. var. latifolia Torr. & A. Gray
Flora of Virginia Name/Status
Polygala senega L.
Recent studies by Pastore et al. (2019, Taxon 68: 673-691) demonstrated that the New World members and Old World members of the large and non-monophyletic genus Polygala (sensu lato) are phylogenetically, morphologically, and geographically separated into two clades and cannot be considered congeneric. Since the type species of the genus is in the Old World group, the New World species (including all from Virginia) were re-assigned to the genus Senega Spach 1838 (Pastore et al., 2023, Ann. Mo. Bot. Gard. 108: 126-249).

Under the name Polygala senega, two vars. have often been recognized (see Synonymy), based on differing leaf width/shape, capsule length, and seed length. In our area, the leaf characters seem fully gradational and plants matching both vars. can sometimes be found in the same population. At their extremes, the two variants are strikingly different but overall, it has been difficult to discern two consistently discrete taxa. Varietal names are not currently available in Senega; however, the issue is worthy of further study and it may be possible in the future to formally recognize and map these taxa.
Dry-mesic to dry forests, woodlands, and barrens over calcareous and mafic substrates. Infrequent overall in the mountains and Piedmont, but locally frequent or common in most limestone districts of the Ridge and Valley province.
Native Status

To save this map, right-click (control-click for Mac users) on the map and choose "Save Image As...".