Plants of
South Australia
Polygala triflora
Tri-coloured Milkwort
Display all 2 images
Distribution by Herbarium region
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier


Polygala from the Latin form of Greek 'polys' meaning much and 'gala' meaning milk; referring to a belief that animals eating some plants in the genus produced more milk. Triflora from the Latin 'treis' meaning three and 'florus' meaning flower; referring to the flower which can be purple, yellow or white.

Distribution and status

Only once record in South Australia from the far north-east corner; growing on sandy or loam soil. Also found in New South Wales, Queensland and southern Asia. Native. Rare in South Australia. Rare in New South Wales. Common in Queensland.
Herbarium region: Lake Eyre
NRM region: South Australian Arid Lands
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Hairy annual or perennial herb with ascending lateral branches to 30 cm long, often with thickened tap roots. Leaves linear to oblanceolate or obovate, to 48 mm long and 7 mm wide. Inflorescence a long spike to 90 mm long in axils with small purple, light purple to yellow or white pea-like flowers. Flowering between May and June. Fruits are pale brown ovate to oblong capsule to 4.5 mm long and 3.5 mm wide. Seeds are dark brown ovoid seed to 4.5 mm long and 2 mm wide, covered in long hairs and a helmet-shaped aril at the narrow end. Seed embryo type is spatulate fully developed.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between July and August. Collect capsules that are turning brown with dark seeds inside. Capsules are hidden among the leaves and maybe difficult to see. Seeds can also be collected from the ground under the plants. Place the capsules in a tray and leave to dry for a week. Then gently rub the pods by hand to dislodge the seeds. Use a sieve to separate the unwanted material. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place.