|Photo: Wasyl Bakowsky|
Features: The Pink Milkwort (Polygala incarnata) is a very slender annual herb that grows in dry, sandy, undisturbed prairie habitats where it is often found growing in asociation with Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). The plant's single, sparsely branched stem stands up to 60 cm tall and has only a few small, narrow leaves. Pink or rose-coloured flowers are produced in summer and are pollinated by insects. Seeds are hairy and are believed to be dispersed by wind, and possibly by ants. As an annual, this plant must produce seeds to persist in an area as its root system does not survive over the winter.
Status: Endangered Provincially and Nationally
Range: Pink Milkwort is widely distributed in the eastern and central United States, ranging from New England, south to Florida and Texas, and west to Oklahoma and Kansas. In Canada, the species occurs only in southwestern Ontario on Walpole Island and near Windsor.
Threats: The conversion of prairie habitats to farmland may have contributed to the decline of this species in Ontario. The main threat at present is natural succession, which results in the shading out of Milkworts as shrubs invade their habitat. Formerly, annual controlled burns were an important means of maintaining open conditions on the prairie, but this practice has been discontinued in many privately owned areas.
Protection: The Pink Milkwort is listed in regulation under Ontario's Endangered Species Act, 2007, which protects the species and its habitat. The Natural Heritage component of the Provincial Policy Statement under Ontario's Planning Act provides for the protection of significant portions of the habitat of species listed in regulation under the ESA. Ontario's Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program (CLTIP) will provide 100% tax relief to private landowners for the portion of their property (minimum size 0.5 acres) determined to be habitat of species in regulation under the ESA. The CLTIP program recognizes, encourages and supports private land stewardship.
All but one of Ontario's populations of Pink Milkwort are on private land. At the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve in Windsor, prescribed burns have been carried out regularly to maintain open habitat, and weedy shrubs such as Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) are being removed.
Text Sources: Brownell 1984; Brownell 1998
Last Modified Date: October 2008
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