Root Beer Plant
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Root Beer Plant
A Naturalized Photo: S. Kasim
Common name: Root Beer Plant, Island Snake-root, Milkwort
Botanical name: Polygala paniculata    Family: Polygalaceae (Milkwort family)
Synonyms: Polygala brasiliensis, Polygala quitensis, Polygala humilis

Root Beer Plant is an erect much-branched annual herb, 10-50 cm tall, woody at base. Interestingly, the roots of the plant smell of root beer because a volatile compound, methyl salicylate, which is a flavouring used for the root beer drink, is produced by the plant. Stems are minutely rough to glandular-hairy. Leaves are narrow-elliptic to linear-ovate, 2-25 x 2-4 mm, usually hairless, thinly textured. Leaf-stalks are up to 1 mm long or absent. Flowers are borne in racemes 4-20 cm long. Flower-stalks are 0.5-0.8 mm long. Flowers are small, 2.5-3 x 1.5 mm. Sepals are of two forms, 3 sepals 0.8-11 x 0.5 mm, 2 sepals about 2 x 1 mm. Petals are also of two forms, 2 petals white, about 2 mm long, 1 petal about 2 mm long with 6 white appendages at the tip enveloping the stamens and the ovary. Anthers are about 0.5 mm long, filaments less than 0.5 mm long. Capsules are elliptic-oblong, about 2 mm long, clothed in fine hairs. Root Beer Plant is native to Tropical America, naturalized worldwide.
Medicinal uses: In Brazil, it is used as topical preparations to treat physical traumas.

Identification credit: S. Kasim Photographed in Wagaman, Kerala.

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