Friday, November 12, 2010

Procession Flower - Polygala incarnata

Procession flower (Polygala incarnata) is yet another beautiful and distinctive member of the milkwort family.  It occurs nearly statewide in Florida in upland habitats and throughout much of the eastern US as well.  It is listed as endangered or threatened in much of the upper Midwest, however. This is a species of open pine flatwoods and fields where moisture levels are not too severe.  It is not considered a "wetland plant", but it is not especially adapted to xeric conditions either.
Procession flower is an annual.  Typically, it has a few linear basal leaves and narrow alternate leaves up the central stem.  At maturity, in early summer, this stalk may stand several feet tall.  The flower bud is elliptical.
Unlike many other species in this genus, flowering occurs over time with only a few open and these opening from the bottom to the tip over several weeks.  The typical color is a rich purple, but white-flowered forms are not uncommon.  Each flowers looks a bit like a sea anemone in shape.
Procession flower has never been propagated to my knowledge by any nursery associated with AFNN - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries.  Despite its ability to adapt well to typical landscape settings and its beautiful flowers, its annual nature make it difficult to maintain over time in a mixed landscape bed.

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