Green and white combine
In a most dazzling array
Of delicate life.
I first saw Elliott’s Milkpea, Galactic elliottii, while visiting the Lake Wales Ridge forest in Polk County. Unfortunately, I did not get a good picture. Luckily, I found the elliottii in the Koreshan State Park where it grows profusely. Elliottii is a trailing vine with reddish and hairy stems crawling over the hot sands of a pine scrub. Compound leaves are attached to the vine stem by stalk or petiole. Compound leaves have two or more sub-units called leaflets. Elliottii’s compound leaf is made up of 7 to 9 leaflets. That’s 6 to 8 leaflets in pairs with the leftover leaflet extending forward at the tip of the petiole. This arrangement is referred to as opposite and odd. Furthermore, as leaflets are opposite it is also referred to as a pinnate. (Ferns have this pinnate structure too). If you want to check this out, go to the nearest Gumbo Limbo tree. There you will find compound leaves arranged alternately on the branches, leaflets are opposite and odd and pinnate as well.
Elliottii is a member of the Fabaceae (Bean Family). Accordingly, it presents the famous pea flower with a bloom (corolla) of three lobes. A banner of 2 large petals, two wing petals that are not fused, and a keel of 2 fuse narrow petals. Sex organs are on the keel, which acts as a landing strip for pollinators.