– Posted in: Native/Invasive

There is a sweet little flower (Polygala paucifolia) that blooms in our woods about the same time as the trilliums. It is called Fringed Polygala, which doesn’t do justice to the plant, but also Gaywings, which captures the essence of the flowers better. You could almost call them funny; they look like little hot pink airplane propellers.

gaywings Polygala paucifolia

I can’t help but see an old-fashioned airplane propeller every time I look at one of these diminutive charmers

Saturday morning, my daughter says to me, “Mom, if you don’t walk up the hill today, you’re gonna miss the gaywings this year. And I saw some white-flowered ones this year.”

By my own decree, I am supposed to either take a walk or ride the exercise bicycle 5 days a week. By my own confession, I haven’t been meeting this objective for quite a while. It was a beautiful day; I examined my excuses for not going on this walk, and found them wanting. The possibility of finding white gaywings was a definite draw. So was the fact that my dear husband agreed to go with me.
white gaywings Polygala paucifolia

The white form of gaywings is even more difficult to photograph than the more common pink form.

We found the white gaywings where Talitha said we would, and we found some in another spot quite removed from the first clump.

We also found another plant in bloom that I have yet to identify. The flowers are yellow and resemble those of the common wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta), but the leaves don’t look anything like it. (I didn’t bring a specimen down with me, so I’m describing from memory.) They were three-lobed–almost like 3 hepatica leaves fused together in shape, although larger than that in size. The leaves were held above the flowers. I couldn’t find this in my National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers–Eastern Region, admittedly not the most recent edition, so I am hoping to find it in Wildflowers of New York in Colorwhen I check it out of the library this Wednesday. This latter book is worth investigating if you live anywhere in the Northeast. The photos are, for the most part, better than in the Audubon guide, and because it’s more focused, you don’t spend as much time flipping pages of plants from other climates east of the Rockies. The one flaw I find in it, is that it doesn’t distinguish between native and non-native plants in its descriptions.

Everything that survived last summer’s drought seemed to find the snowy winter and mild, wet spring to its liking, and was thriving. I can’t remember ever seeing so many gaywings before. Either they have spread quite a bit in the last ten years, or I have just become more alert to their presence.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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