Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Soft Milkpea - Galactia mollis   Michaux
Members of Galactia with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Family Fabaceae
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AuthorMichaux
DistributionLimited to scattered counties in the southern portion of the Coastal Plain, but today essentially limited to the Sandhills region. Ranges north only to Richmond, Cumberland, and Wayne counties.

This is a scarce Southern Coastal Plain species, ranging north to southeastern NC and south to central FL, and west to MS.
AbundanceRare to locally uncommon in the Sandhills region -- essentially at Sandhills Game Land and Fort Bragg. Apparently of historical occurrence from Wayne, Pender, and Brunswick counties. This species is appropriately listed as State Threatened.
HabitatThis is a species of well-managed sandhiils habitats -- mainly in somewhat loamy soil as opposed to xeric sands. It favors Mesic Pine Flatwoods and Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill natural communities. As with G. erecta, this species fares poorly in pinelands where fire has been suppressed for 5-10 or more years.
See also Habitat Account for Loammy, Fire-maintained Herb and Shrublands
PhenologyBlooms from May to July, and fruits from July to September.
IdentificationThough a number of other Galactia species are vine-like and creeping along the ground, this species is easily identified by its densely pubescent stems and especially leaves, giving the whole plant a "soft" look, which is what the common name indicates. It trails along the ground, rarely climbing, for 3-5 feet long, and has somewhat sparse leaves scattered along the stem. Each leaf is composed of 3 leaflets, each fairly similar in size and shape, being elliptical and about 1.5 inches long and about 1 inch wide, with a rounded tip. At leaf axils grow erect flowering stalks to about 6 inches high, each containing only a few flowers that are rose to bright pink, with the standard being white on the back. Each flower is about 1/3-inch long. Not only are the stems and leaves velvety-soft hairy, but so are the pods, which are about 2 inches long and obviously very pubescent. Though there are a good handful of legumes with 3 leaflets that trail on the ground, and not all simply in the genus Galactia, this one is probably the most velvety-looking, and it should be identifiable just by the leaves and stem. However, as it often grows in highly diverse sites that are frequently burned, there are likely going to be many other herbaceous species that will be taller, or more obvious as you walk through its sandhill habitat. Thus, many biologists might walk past it, unless the flowers are seen.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS2
Global RankG4G5
State StatusT
US Status
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