Spring Wild Flowers of the Sandilands


After I found my Calypso orchids in the Sandilands bog near Hadashville, on the way out of the boggy forest, I stopped to photograph Fringed milkwort or gaywings (Polygala paucifolia). The flowers are a deep pink to rose colour. I admit I am a sucker for pink flowers. These flowers are so pretty that my friend Doris Ames says they should really be admitted into the orchid family. It is called  “Gaywings” because of its gorgeous brilliantly coloured flowers that look a bit like wings.  The Iroquois used the leaves of this plant as a wash or poultice to treat abscesses, boils and sores. I have no idea if that helps but I suspect it did. Natives of North America have valuable traditional knowledge gained over millennia of living with nature. The common name, “milkwort” is derived from the genus name. Polys is Greek for “many” or “much” and “gala” is Greek for “milk.” At one time it was believed by ranchers that cattle eating this plant would produce a lot of milk.


I also photographed a violet also in the ditch. I am not sure if it was Early Violet or Bog Violet. They look very similar. Early blue violet (Viola adunca) is as the name would suggest one of the earliest spring violets in Manitoba, but Bog Violet Viola nephrophylla  is also early. According to Doris Ames Early violet is smaller than Bog violet. Early violet is also paler in colour than Bog violet. Now the violet I saw had a very large flower but it was pale. So which is it? I confess I don’t know. It could have either one of them. So I just call it violet. That can’t be wrong.


As well I saw Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). These plants had a lot of uses by indigenous people including medicinal tea that could cure insanity, as an ingredient for treating skin sores like eczema, which I wished my mother had known about. Apparently I had it so bad that my great aunt when she met me for the first time, was dumbstruck and she was so nice she could not say a bad word so she just muttered, “What an…….interesting looking baby.”

I also  saw some Hoary Puccoon (Lithospermum canescens). Some people call this flower cowslip, but there are many other flowers that are also called cowslip so I avoid that name. It is also sometimes called Indian paint. This plant has bright orange-yellow flowers that are so saturated with colour that it looks like it has been dripped in wet paint. It flowers for a long time.

With the calypso orchids I reported on earlier, I thought it was a pretty good day of botanizing.

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