Polygala paucifolia (Gaywings)
|Also known as:||Fringed Milkwort, Fringed Polygala, Flowering Wintergreen|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; dry to moist rich woods, acidic soil, often under pines|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||3 to 7 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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One to 4, deep pink to nearly white flowers, each about ¾ inch (15 to 23 mm) across, arise from leaf axils at the stem tip. Two oval petal-like sepals are arranged opposite each other at flower base and flair out likes wings. Two more sepals are neatly wrapped around the center flower column, and a fifth, highly modified with delicate lavender fringes at the crest closes up the underside. Petal-less, self-pollinating (cleistogamous) flowers are also produced later in the season, on very short stems above or below ground.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are alternate but mostly crowded near the tip of the stem where they appear whorled, these upper leaves up to about 1½ inches (15 to 40+ mm) long, up to about ¾ inch wide, egg-shaped to elliptic to spoon shaped, blunt to pointed at the tip, abruptly tapered at the base to a stalk shorter than the blade. Edges are toothless and often fringed with short, curled hairs. Leaves lower on the stem are much reduced in size and stalkless. Stems are ascending to erect, hairless and unbranched. Plants form loose colonies from creeping rhizomes.
Fruit is a 2-seeded capsule ¼ to 1/3 inch (5 to 8 mm) long, nearly round in outline. Seeds are up to 3.5 mm long with a 2-lobed appendage that is half to about as long as the seed.
Gaywings, also known as Polygaloides paucifolia, is restricted to our north central and northeastern counties, primarily in mixed and coniferous forests, swamps and bogs. It is quite small and unassuming until the flowers, like small birds taking to flight, catch your eye, then you may see it in abundance among the surrounding woodland flora.
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- Gaywings plants
- stems have 1 to 4 flowers
- a colony of Gaywings
- Gaywings with Starflower and Bluebead Lily
- leaves are mostly crowded at the top of the stem, lower leaves are scale-like
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Lake of the Woods County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk, taken in Hubbard and Lake of the Woods counties, and in Michigan.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?