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Fringed Polygala Flowering

5-8-12 fringed polygala IMG_7780Thank you so much for all of your warm, welcoming emails regarding my first and only grandchild. Naturally Curious blog posts may be intermittent for the next week or so, but eventually will resume five posts a week.

Fringed Polygala 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.

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17 responses


    Enjoy your first grandchild. You can never recover those fleeting moments of joy!!

    May 28, 2015 at 7:10 am

  2. Genie Jansen

    Mary, On January 20th, 2015, my first grandchild was born. At 74, I am delighted to be caring for her daily while mom and Dad work. Tis indeed very special and I share your joy. Genie Jansen

    May 28, 2015 at 7:52 am

  3. casie


    May 28, 2015 at 8:09 am

  4. Michael Robinson


    You are welcome. Enjoy every moment. I can tell you from being a grandmother that it is a fabulous experience.


    May 28, 2015 at 9:13 am

  5. Mary, This is the most exquisite photo I have ever seen of Fringed Polygala. I have taken many photos of it myself, and seen many that others have taken, but this beats them all – undoubtedly inspired by your grandson! I just had my second grandson and they are such a blessing to one’s life. Thank you for the beauty you add to all of our lives! Craig W

    May 28, 2015 at 9:13 am

  6. Thank you for this posting. We visited the Rachel Carson Nature Preserve in Maine a few years back and saw them for the first time. I photographed them and use the photo with my greeting cards. Another name for them is Gaywings, which certainly is descriptive of their character.

    May 28, 2015 at 9:19 am

  7. Linda

    I’ve never seen these flowers and I want to look for them! In what kind of environment are they likely to be found?

    May 28, 2015 at 9:24 am

  8. Rich Haswell

    This milkwort is so unusual that botanists have put it into a genus of its own: Polygaloides. There are no other species of Polygaloides in the U.S. except for this one, paucifolia. It’s still a milkwort. A milkwort by any other name would smell as sweet, or in this case look as beautiful

    May 28, 2015 at 9:51 am

  9. I saw these flowers for the first time in a wooded area close to a beaver wetland near Concord, New Hampshire, this past weekend. As usual, you’ve taken my understanding and appreciation to a deeper level–thank you!

    May 28, 2015 at 10:10 am

  10. Elizabeth

    If you live in the Upper Valley, these are prolific in the Lyme Town Forest. Also can be seen along the Velvet Rocks trail (part of the Appalachian Trail near the Hanover Co-op).

    May 28, 2015 at 11:40 am

  11. Claudia

    Where in the spring forest would one find the fringed polygala?

    May 28, 2015 at 3:19 pm

  12. Gorgeous flowers! Nice capture.

    May 28, 2015 at 9:41 pm

  13. Udo K Rauter

    Hi. I tried to send a small donation to the address on  your website, but it was returned to me. Could you share your address for snail mail, please?? Also, we were looking out the window today and saw 2 squirrels playing in a tree. One was a typical grey squirrel, but the other one was black! My husband got his camera and got a pretty good picture. It looked just like a grey squirrel but was black. Have you ever seen one in New Hampshire?? Linda

    May 28, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    • Hi Udo,
      My mailing address is 134 Densmore Hill Road, Windsor, VT 05089. The black squirrel in New Hampshire is considered a melanistic subgroup of the eastern gray squirrel.

      May 29, 2015 at 9:42 pm

  14. Sarah R

    Congratulations! Otis will be a life-long source of joy.
    There are lots of fringed polygala, which we also called bird-on-the-wing, blooming in the woods along the trails in the Audubon Center in Concord, NH.

    May 29, 2015 at 8:21 am

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