A Little Woodland Gem: Gaywings

On a recent nature walk I stumbled into a colony of tiny woodland wildflowers, a species that follows the early spring ephemerals but rivals or even exceeds them in beauty. It belongs to the Milkwort family and goes by various common names: Gaywings, Fringed Polygala, Flowering Wintergreen and Bird-on-the-wing. The last refers to the shape of the magenta-colored flower – a pair of sepals flaring out like wings from a tube-like center (fused petals).

Gaywings17May13#073E

Gaywings17May13#040E2

This small, fragile, wildflower prefers mesic, acidic soils, sparse herbaceous competition on the forest floor and a forest canopy of hardwood or mixed hardwood and coniferous trees. The specimens that I photographed must have read the book, because this is precisely the type of habitat where they were growing.

Gaywings18May13#014E

Gaywings is widely distributed in northeastern U.S. It also occurs as far south as the mountains of Georgia and north into Canada.

Gaywings17May13#070E2

All photos by NB Hunter

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “A Little Woodland Gem: Gaywings

    • Thanks Charlie. I hope you find them. Despite their range and “secure” status in New York, I don’t see many – the colonies are few and far between. I spend a lot of time on poorly drained sites with neutral to alkaline soils, which is part of the problem I’m sure. Good luck.

  1. I live in Danby and noticed these just the other day for the first time! In searching for “low growing magenta spring wildflower” I came upon your photos and link to your blog. Where are the white cedar swamps around here?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s