Munificent Milkpea

Elliott’s milkpea (Galactia elliottii) sometimes fills up available trail space as seen above at the upland mitigation area at Indian River Club or clambers atop adjacent foliage without the help of tendrils.  Also known as white milkpea, you will find this vine growing in scrubby pine flatwoods including at the south Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area and the Sebastian Harbor Preserve.

The genus name, Galactia, means milky and may refer to the use of this vine as a forage for milk-producing animals.  The species name, elliottii, honors Stephen Elliott (1771-1830), a botanist, banker, and American legislator from Beaufort, South Carolina, who reportedly was the first to collect this species.  Its range includes South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Its white flowers are eye-catching and are borne on long stalks (peduncles).  Extrafloral nectaries have attracted the attentions of an ant in the photo above.

Its compound leaves are  alternate with 5, 7, or 9 leaflets.  Like other plants in the pea family, Fabaceae, Elliott’s milkpea, fixes nitrogen.  It spreads by long underground roots.

Its seed pods are flat, hairy, and 1 – 2″ long.  Granivorous birds and other wildlife consume the seeds.

This attractive vine is the larval food for the long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus)  and the Zarucco duskywing (Erynnis zarucco).

Elliott’s milkpea deserves consideration as a landscape ground cover or in a hanging basket plant.

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