Polygala cruciata L. var. aquilonia Fern. & Schubert

Locations ofPolygala cruciata L. var. aquilonia Fern. & Schubert in Virginia

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Botanical Name
Polygala cruciata L. var. aquilonia Fern. & Schubert
Common Name
Northern Cross-leaved Milkwort
Polygala aquilonia (Fern. & Schub.) Sorrie & Weakley
Flora of Virginia Name/Status
Polygala cruciata L. var. aquilonia Fern. & Schubert
Two varieties have been recognized by some authorities. The northern variety, var. aquilonia Fern. & Schub., ranges south, primarily inland, to ne. AL while var. cruciata occurs primarily on the southeastern Coastal Plain with a few inland disjunctions. The two taxa are sympatric in eastern Virginia, and can be difficult to distinguish there due to specimens of intermediate or equivocal morphology. Sorrie and Weakley (Phytologia 2017-37: 1-9) conducted a morphological / ecological study of this complex, concluding that the two taxa represent distinct evolutionary lineages and merit recognition at the species level. Given the difficulties of sorting these taxa in their sympatric, eastern Virginia ranges, we are continuing to follow the varietal approach for the time being, hopefully pending further phylogenetic studies.

Var. aquilonia has a disjunct distribution in Virginia represented by the few montane occurrences of the species and a small subset of populations in eastern Virginia. The distribution is based primarily on annotations made by Bruce Sorrie (NCU) in 2016. In eastern Virginia, where it is sympatric with var. cruciata, specimens of confusing, intermediate morphology appear to be locally frequent. It can also be difficult to distinguish specimens of var. aquilonia from young or depauperate specimens of var. cruciata. Further study is warranted.
Fens (calcareous and mafic) in the mountains; open, sphagnous wetlands and wet sands elsewhere; habitats similar to the nominate variety. Infrequent to rare in the Coastal Plain and outer Piedmont of c. and se. Virginia; rare in the mountains (Ridge and Valley province and Southern Blue Ridge).
Native Status

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