This study used pollen morphology to address taxonomic controversies related to several species belonging to subgenus Hebeclada of the genus Polygala (Polygalaceae). According to the last traditionally accepted revision of this subgenus, it comprises 40 species. Nevertheless, a recent taxonomic treatment applying more comprehensive criteria reduced this number to only nine species. Our work focused on 15 traditionally accepted species that occur in Brazil, fourteen of which have been considered as only six species in this recent taxonomic study. Pollen grains from floral buds at pre-anthesis were collected from herbarium specimens and analysed using both visible light and scanning electron microscopy. Most of the traditionally accepted species were distinguished by different combinations of several pollen-related features, in particular colpi number (13 or 15), pollen size and shape, and endoaperture type (endocingulate or not) and arrangement (parallel or sinuous). The species accepted in the recent taxonomic treatment could not be discriminated by pollen characters. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 157, 609–619.