Chalk Milkwort is a
perennial plant of the UK, typically found growing in grazed chalk and limestone grassland, to a mature height of up to 5cm.
Chalk Milkwort takes its name from its habitat and the traditional belief that the plant increases milk production. As a small, low-growing plant of grassland, the plant's survival in a given location relies on grazing, to keep surrounding grasses in check. Chalk Milkwort can be distinguished from Common Milkwort by: its smaller size and more compact habit; its oval leaves (rather than elongated tapering leaves); and its leaves increasing in size towards the base of the plant (rather than decreasing in size). Chalk Milkwort usually has blue flowers, whereas Common Milkwort may have lilac, purple, pink, blue or white flowers. Chalk Milkwort has tiny, but pretty and unusual, terminal clusters of tubular flowers. These are made up of three petals: a lower petal folded into a 'keel', terminating in a frilly protruding 'crest', and two side petals. The flower tube is flanked on either side by two large petal-like sepals and enclosed by three short outer sepals.
Botanic classification and naming: Chalk Milkwort is a member of the Milkwort (Polygalaceae) family. The genus name
'Polygala' identifies the plant as a Milkwort and its species name 'calcarea' means 'chalkland plant'.
Concerns: Chalk Milkwort should never be taken from the wild. Removal of a plant from the wild is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). However, cultivated varieties of Chalk Milkwort are available from nurseries for garden rockeries.