Thursday, May 12, 2011
Fringed polygala, Polygala paucifolia, has held a fascination for us since we first found it growing in our woods. Its numbers were small and some years we could not find it in bloom. Unable to find a source to buy gay-wings we considered taking one plant. Our forest floor is thick with ferns and briars. Any previous attempt to pry common plants out here ended in frustrated failure. I could not separate the ground's fiberous root mass from the plant I wanted to move. Knowing that polygala grew from a large underground system of slender branching root stems, I left it alone. Last summer I found a plant growing around the edges of a sizeable flat stone. Carefully the stone was lifted. The network of roots was visible. With great care and gentle prodding, the entire plant was lifted and replanted in our shade garden.
When the snow melted this spring we were surprised to find green leaves still on the plant. In the upper right corner of the photo, the dark green leaves are last year's growth. Evergreen in nature makes polygala suseptible to smothering by fall tree leaves. Fortunatly our shade garden is in a windy location. Fallen leaves are quickly blown away. Stick like stems from our locust tree hold some organic matter in place but the polygala easily grows through them. New bright green leaves and flowers seem to indicate that the move to our garden was successful.
An orchid by structure, this flower captivates me. Its color is a draw but the diverse arrangement of its parts holds my attention. Reproduction is by a cleistogamous flower. This on the ground flower has so far eluded me. Daily inspection of this transplant may allow a sighting of the fertile flower. For now we will take good care of this plant recognizing it for the treasure that it is.