An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide –

Fringed Polygala

Fringed Polygala (Polygala paucifolia) looks a bit like a miniature orchid, but it is not — it is in the Milkwort family. The structure of its ¾-inch bright magenta-pink blossoms is well-suited for its bumblebee pollinators.  The bee lands on the pink fringe at the front of the flower and its weight triggers the white “keel” to drop down.  A slit at the keel’s top opens, exposing the reproductive parts of the flower.  Pollen from the stamens is rubbed onto the bee’s hairs while it probes deeply into the base of the flower for nectar, while pollen from a previously visited Fringed Polygala is scraped off onto the stigma, where it needs to be in order for fertilization to take place.


6 responses

  1. How lovely! Does it grow around here?

    May 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    • It can be found throughout New England and is flowering now!

      May 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm

  2. Clyde A Jenne

    When I was a boy,(in the dark ages) we called this flower “Bird on the Wing”. Is that just a local name?

    May 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    • “Bird on the Wing” is another common name for Fringed Polygala that is used wherever it grows, not just Vermont, Clyde! I happen to love that name. Often flowers have several common names, which can be confusing — a reason to be grateful for the fact that every plant has only one scientific name!

      May 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm

  3. Viola

    This little beauty is also sometimes referred to as Gay Wings. Nature has won many a beauty contest. Hooray for Mary Holland who captures the beauty with her camera and fascinates our minds with fascinating information. Thanks to you!

    May 9, 2012 at 6:03 pm

  4. There’s a lot of this wonderful flower found in the Quechee State Park near the gorge. I first found it in the pines there nearly 25 years ago. Just down the road from VINS!

    May 10, 2012 at 1:55 am

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