Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Erect Milkpea - Galactia erecta   (Walter) Vail
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Author(Walter) Vail
DistributionThroughout the southern half of the Coastal Plain, north to Beaufort, Johnston, and Moore counties. These counties represent the northern edge of the range of the species.

This is a Southeastern Coastal Plain species, ranging north only to southeastern NC, and south to the FL Panhandle and west to eastern TX.

AbundanceFairly common in well-managed habitats in the Sandhills region; infrequent elsewhere eastward, but can be locally fairly common in some well-managed Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) habitats in coastal counties. Rare in the middle of this range, where good stands of pine sandhills are scarce.
HabitatThis is a species of dry, sandy sites, mainly limited to well-maintained (by fire) pine sandhills habitats, especially where the soil is slightly loamy and thus there is a good herbaceous species diversity. It can be found in Mesic Pine Flatwoods, but it is not a savanna species, nor is it found in xeric sands. Areas of Longleaf Pies that have been long fire-suppressed typically lack the species.
See also Habitat Account for Loammy, Fire-maintained Herb and Shrublands
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits from July to September.
IdentificationThis is a "unique" NC Galactia, in that it is erect and not sprawling or twining along the ground or climbing like the others in the genus. It is a small and slender species, growing only to about 8-12 inches tall. There are only a few scattered leaves on the mainly unbranched stem, and these are 3-parted, essentially sessile, and have narrow, oblong (parallel-sided) leaflets that reach 1-1.5 inches long and much narrower. In fact, the lateral leaflets are nearly in-line with each other so that the entire leaf has a T-shape when viewed from above. The few inflorescences grow from leaf axils and extend several inches above the leaves; each of the few flowers is white (as opposed to rose or pink in the others in the genus), and about 1/2-inch long. Experienced persons can identify the species by the narrow, parallel-sided leaflets that are essentially sessile to the stem. Less experience people will need to see the white flowers to be sure. This is one of many herbaceous species that seem to quickly disappear from poorly managed pinelands; where burned every few years, it can be encountered fairly frequently (more so in the Sandhills such as the Sandhills Game Land), but it is normally one that may take a bit of searching to find it, even in well-maintained nature preserves.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS3 [S3S4]
Global RankG4
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