The purple Gaywing wildflower is often mistaken for an orchid. It goes by the names of Fringed Polygala, Gaywings, or Flowering Wintergreen.
This dainty and low perennial usually rises but four or five inches the from the ground; the stem bends sharply as it enters the soil and continues into a long, slender rootstalk often a foot in length. A few broad, ovate, pointed, shining, bright green leaves are crowded along the stem near its top and one or two tiny ones, resembling scales, clasp the stem lower down.
Either one or two flowers are at the summit of the stem; they are quite large, being nearly an inch in length the two lateral sepals are large and wing-shaped (one of the common local names for this species is “Bird-on-the-Wing” because of the resemblance to a bird in flight) the three petals are joined together to form a tube, through which the yellow stamens and pistil protrude; the two spreading sepals are crimson pink and the petals are lighter or white, the lower one being fringed or bearded.
It is largely dependent upon the honeybee for fertilization and produces compounds thought to increase milk production in nursing mammals.