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Polygala paucifolia Willd.

Fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderPolygalalesIncludes milkwort, krameria, and Barbados cherry families
FamilyPolygalaceaeMilkwort family. Also called Diclidantheraceae, Moutabeaceae, Xanthophyllaceae)
GenusPolygalaFrom Greek polys, “many or much,” and gala, “milk,” since some of these species were believed to increase milk yields in cattle
SpeciespaucifoliaWith little foliage, literally “few-leaved”

About plant names...

Fringed polygala is a North American native plant. Polygala means “much milk,” a reference to fringed polygala’s reputed ability to stimulate the production of milk in people and other mammals. It is found in all forests, except the wettest and the driest, most often with fir, cedar, birch, aspen, hemlock, and pines. It is common near shorelines, in calcerous or sandy soils.

Identification: When I first noticed these tiny but colorful flowers, I thought they must be violets, which were also in bloom. On closer inspection, though, they look much different, more like orchids, for which they are sometimes mistaken. But these flowers have a fringed center and two large opposing petals, hence the name “gaywings.”

Plants: Plants are evergreen, and less than 6" (15 cm) in height.

Leaves: Upper leaves are oval, and near the top of the stem, just beneath the flowers. They are not separated into leaflets, and they are entire, that is, not divided. Leaf edges are rough, but not toothed. They are 1-1½" (2.5-3.8 cm) × ½-¾" (1.3-1.9 cm).

Flowers: Each diminutive plant sports one to four flowers. They are a bright magenta or pink color, about ¾-1" (1.9-2.5 cm) in size. Rarely, flowers are white, or blue to purple. Each flower has two showy side petals—the “wings”—and a central tubelike structure. The tube is comprised of two smaller equally bright petals, and a third, which extends a bit further, ending in a bright pink or white “pom pom.” Five sepals are largely enclosed within the pink tube. Flowers appears from May to June.

Fruits: Capsules are somewhat heart-shaped, up to ⅛" (6 mm) long.

Medical: Fringed polygala was once believed to contain compounds that stimulate milk production in nursing mammals. It has also been used historically for abscesses, boils, and sores.

Online References:

Polygala paucifolia at the U.S. Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers site

Polygala paucifolia on Ontario Wildflowers

Polygala paucifolia on www.henriettes-herb.com

Polygala paucifolia on CalPhotos

Polygala paucifolia on gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org

Polygala paucifolia on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site

Polygala paucifolia at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Polygala paucifolia on michiganflora.net

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/14/2010 · Beaver Brook Association Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 3 × 3" (7.8 × 8.5 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/14/2010 · Beaver Brook Association Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 3 × 3" (7.8 × 8.5 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/17/2021 · Bijhouwer Forest, Phippsburg, Maine
≈ 3½ × 4" (9.1 × 10 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/5/2016 · Wildflower Trail, Beaver Brook C, Hollis, New Hamp­shire

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/17/2021 · Bijhouwer Forest, Phippsburg, Maine
≈ 3½ × 2½" (8.6 × 6.7 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/14/2013 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 11 × 7" (26 × 17 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/14/2015 · Silver Lake, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 3½ × 3½" (8.7 × 8.8 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/20/2021 · Eaton Farm Preserve, Wiscasset, Maine
≈ 3 × 3" (7.4 × 7.5 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/20/2014 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 5 × 3½" (12 × 8.9 cm)

Polygaloides paucifolia (Willd.) J.R. Abbott

Triclisperma paucifolia (Willd.) Nieuwl.

 

Polygala paucifolia description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 18 Aug 2021.

© FloraFinder.org. All rights reserved.


 

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/14/2010 · Beaver Brook Association Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 4 × 3½" (10 × 9.6 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/12/2016 · Wildlife Pond Trail, Beaver Broo, Hollis, New Hamp­shire

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/20/2014 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 3 × 3" (7.6 × 7.5 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

6/15/1979 · Virginia · By Tim Chandler ID is uncertain

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/21/2013 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 6 × 5" (14 × 12 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/17/2021 · Bijhouwer Forest, Phippsburg, Maine
≈ 4 × 3" (10 × 7.8 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/14/2013 · Beaver Brook Assn Conservation Lands, Rte. 130, Hollis, New Hamp­shire
≈ 5 × 4" (12 × 10 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/5/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Pepperell, Mass­a­chu­setts
≈ 3 × 2½" (8.4 × 6.4 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/17/2021 · Bijhouwer Forest, Phippsburg, Maine
≈ 3 × 2½" (7.5 × 6.5 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/12/2016 · Wildlife Pond Trail, Beaver Broo, Hollis, New Hamp­shire

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/6/2021 · Tarbox Preserve, Topsham, Maine
≈ 1¾ × 1¾" (4.9 × 4.5 cm)

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/17/2016 · Worcester Road Trails, Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, New Hamp­shire

Polygala paucifolia (fringed polygala, gaywings, fringed milkwort)

5/19/2021 · Heath Trail, Highland Green, Topsham, Maine
≈ 2½ × 2½" (6.7 × 6.3 cm)

Range: Zones 5-7:

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