Polygala paniculata L.

Etymology Genus A lot of milk; referring to the belief that cattle grazing on these plants can produce more milk
Species After panicule, the structure of the inflorescence
Family Polygalaceae
Synonyms -
Common Names Root Beer Plant, Island Snake-root, Milkwort
Status Exotic: Naturalised
Form Herb
Native Distribution Tropical America


Polygala paniculata is a small erect herb that can be found in scrublands and open areas. The alternately arranged leaves are very narrow with only the mid-veins visible. The white inflorescence which bear on the tips of each branch.

Interesting Facts:

The roots of the Root Beer Plant smell, erm, of root beer because a volatile compound, methyl salicylate (flavouring used for the root beer drink) is produced by the plant (Pizzolatti et al., 2009).

Form of the Root Beer Plant, standing only about 20cm tall.

The inflorescence.

The leaves are very narrow and alternately arranged.

A flower at close-up view.

The developing fruits.


Pizzolatti MG, Beatriz GM, Soldi CM, Fabiana C, Bortoluzzi JH & Carasek E. (2009) Analysis of volatile compounds released from flowers and roots of Polygala cyparissias and Polygala paniculata by headspace/SPME. Journal of Essential Oil Research, 21: 255-258.

Author: Jake
Posted: 2013-05-18 / Modified: 2017-12-25