Mustard Barberry, Spiderwort And Phlox Families
Iris Family Iridaceae
Read More Articles About: Wildflower Families
( Originally Published 1908 )
This is a comparatively small family represented in the eastern United States by the single genus Polygala, which includes a number of more or less abundant wild flowers. Many of these rather closely resemble one another and are some-what difficult to determine with certainty, but a very few of them are distinctive and widely distributed.
FRINGED POLYGALA. The most important of these is the beautiful little Fringed Polygala, which is widely distributed in Canada and the northern states. John Burroughs has aptly said that a bed of these flowers looks like a flock of rose-colored butterflies resting after flight. But they are not even what the naturalists call " butter-fly blossoms," for their structure adapts them to the bees, so they are among the " bee blossoms." Bumble-bees seem to be the most frequent visitors. They alight upon the mass of fringe at the end of the flower and insert their tongues in between the petals to sip the nectar. In doing this they depress the keel of the flower, uncovering the anthers and the stigma and bringing about cross-pollination in a way that you can easily see if you will examine the flowers carefully.
This Polygala is also of special interest because it has two sorts of blossoms. Besides the large showy flowers which are on the ends of the stems there are small, whitish, inconspicuous ones near the bases of the stems. These are what the botanists call closed blossoms, never developing completely so far as the petals are concerned, yet producing seed in abundance. The species is also sometimes called Flowering Wintergreen.