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Common Herb Species of the Northwest Forest

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Polygala paucifolia
Flowering Wintergreen
"Gaywings" or "Fringed Milkwort"

Polygalaceae (Milkwort Family)

Description

General - a low perennial, growing up to 15 cm tall; stems branched towards top, hairless.

Gay Wings Leaves - simple, alternate, most clustered near top of stem, elliptic to egg-shaped, 1 -5 cm long, 1 -2 cm wide, short-stalked or stalkless, pointed.

Flowers - usually 3 or 4 in axils of upper leaves; pink to rose-purple, irregular; 5 sepals, 3 are 3 - 6 mm long, 2 are 10 - 17 mm long; 3 petals, 10 - 18 mm long, middle petal boat-shaped with fringed crest about 6 mm long.; appearing early-summer.

Fruit - small 2-seeded capsules, split lengthwise; appearing mid-summer.

Habitat

Moist coniferous woods; occasional across southern boreal forest from southeastern Manitoba to northeastern Alberta; rare in Alberta; often near club- and other mosses and lichens.

Notes

Flowering Wintergreen also produces flowers that are fertilized without opening on short underground, side branches. The genus name Polygala is derived from the Greek poly, 'much' or 'many', and gala, 'milk', in reference to the produce secretions of some plants of this genus, and the belief that a diet high in milkwort would increase the milk production of both domestic cows and nursing mothers.


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