Monday, May 30, 2011

Gaywings Part III

Gaywings have a hidden secret. 
I'm referring to hidden flowers they have besides their showy, pollinator punching ones.
 There, hidden below the leaf litter on underground stems, are little cleistogamous flowers.  These are flowers that never open, and so they self-fertilize to bear seed.

  I brought a pair of those heart-shaped pouches up to the light

Since these tiny flowers don't open, here is a cut-away view taken through my hand lens.
 Notice the slight lavender tinge around the edge of the pouch. 
 Fascinating, isn't it?
 John Borroughs wrote (way back in the 1800's) about the Gaywings (fringed polygala) in his book entitled, Riverby.
    "I must not forget to mention that delicate and lovely flower of May, the fringed polygala.  You gather it when you go for the fragrant showy orchis---that is, if you are lucky enough to find it.  It is rather a shy flower, and is not found in every wood.  One day we went up and down through the woods looking for it---woods of mingled oak, chestnut, pine, and hemlock---and were about giving it up when suddenly we came upon a gay company of them beside an old wood-road.  It was as if a flock of small rose-purple butterflies had alighted there on the ground before us.  The whole plant has a singularly fresh and tender aspect.  Its foliage is of a slightly purple tinge and of very delicate texture.  Not the least interesting feature about the plant is the concealed fertile flower which it bears on a subterranean stem, keeping, as it were, one flower for beauty and one for use."
My sentiments exactly.

1 comment:

  1. Love the hand lens cross-section shot. Just wonderful !