Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Eastern Milkpea - Galactia regularis   (L.) Britton, Sterns, & Poggenburg
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
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Author(L.) Britton, Sterns, & Poggenburg
DistributionThis species includes most plants of what used to be called G. volubilis in most references. The switch is necessary, due to mis-application of type specimens. The "new" G. regularis (most of "old" volubilis) occurs nearly statewide, but is scarce in the central and northern Mountains and may be truly absent in a few such counties.

This Eastern species ranges from PA west to MO, and south to southern FL and eastern TX.
AbundanceCommon over nearly all of the Piedmont, and most of the Coastal Plain; only infrequent in the far eastern counties, but it does occur along the Outer Banks (but scarce on the adjacent mainland). It is fairly common to frequent in the southern Mountains, but rarer farther northward.
HabitatThis species occurs in fairly typical places for legumes -- mainly dry to somewhat mesic edges, openings, and thickets. It does occur in openings in uplands woods, as well.
PhenologyBlooms from July to September, and fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a very slender herbaceous vine that typically twines and grows onto other vegetation; it can reach 3-4 feet long. The stems usually are quite hairy/villous, and the numerous leaves are divided into 3 broad (elliptical, ovate) leaflets, broader than others in the genus. Each leaflet is about 1 inch long, a bit less wide, widest at the middle. The similar G. volubilis has leaflets that are more ovate to lanceolate with leaflets wider toward the base. The leaflets are thick in texture, as opposed to somewhat thin in G. volubilis. Also, G. regularis has rather small rose to pink flowers on short stalks from leaf axils; each flower is only 1/3-inch across. As Nesom (2015) summarizes: "Galactia regularis refers to the species widespread in the eastern USA, with leaflets mostly elliptic to broadly elliptic, relatively small flowers, and twining stems hirsute-villous with deflexed hairs." Also note that this is the state's only milkpea found in the mountains and nearly all of the Piedmont, and thus no confusion with other species of Galactia should occur there. This is a frequently encountered legume on walks in the two provinces, especially in the Piedmont, particularly along woodland borders, powerline clearings, and margins of thickets.
Taxonomic CommentsSee discussion in Nesom (2015). Most of what used to be "volubilis" is now G. regularis; the rest of what used to be volubilis (i.e., G. macreei, G. glabella) retains the name volubilis.

Other Common Name(s)Confusing, owing to the recent swapping of names. Some name this as Downy Milkpea or Hairy Milkpea. However, with the swapping of scientific names between G. regularis and G. volubilis, the use of names such as Downy and Hairy become muddled, as these have also been used for the latter. As this is the only Galactia with a broad Eastern range, the use of Eastern Milkpea should end confusion.
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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