milkwort, common name for the Polygalaceae, a family including herbs, shrubs, and trees found in all parts of the world except New Zealand and the polar regions. Several milkworts (genus Polygala ), perennial herbs, are native to moist habitats of the United States and are sometimes cultivated as ornamentals. The Seneca snakeroot ( P. senega ), used by the Seneca for snakebite, yields the herbal medicine senegin. The milkwort family is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Polygalales.
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