Candyroot, Beach Botany


A puff of yellow
Adorns the water-rich leaves
Rising from the scrub.

Candyroot, Polygala nana, is a short lived herbaceous plant that can grow to a height of 4 to 6 inches. At the base of the plant is a basal rosette made up of dark green succulent spatulate leaves 1 to 2 inches long and ¾ inch wide. One to six erect stems grow from the rosette.  At the upper part of each stem is a cylindrical head 1 to 2 inches long.

The cylindrical head is composed of numerous tiny greenish yellow to lemon green elliptical modified leaves called bracts. Three bracts each cover a tiny tubular flower. When ready to bloom, the flower will poke its way through the bracts so that its sex organs can be reached by pollinators, mostly bees. The specimen in the picture is new growth accordingly, there are no visible flowers. Blooming for this species occurs in the spring.

There are 23 species of the genus Polygala in Florida. In the U.S., this species is found throughout Southeastern states. I found the plant shown here on a sandy firebreak in Rookery Bay Preserve’s scrub country.


Dorothy Rodwell