Polygala incarnata
Pink milkwort
Image of Polygala incarnata

Photo by Ryan P. O'Connor 

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Key Characteristics

Small forb (60 cm) of lakeplain prairies; stems very slender and glaucous with tiny, scale-like leaves; bright pink, tiny flowers are borne in clusters atop the stem; flower petals uniting to form a long (7-10 mm) floral tube.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: X
  • State Rank: SX
  • Global Rank: G5


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
St. Clair31900
Distribution map for Polygala incarnata

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Pink milkwort is found in a variety of habitats ranging from dry sand to wet peaty soils, prairie remnants, lake margins, and meadows. This species has not been documented in Michigan since 1900, but it is known from high-quality lakeplain prairies on islands just across the St. Clair River in Ontario, Canada, and these are likely the historic habitats in Michigan, although specimen labels lack this information.

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

Big bluestem, little bluestem, Pennsylvania sedge, tower mustard, whorled milkweed, Ohio horse mint, old field balsam, hairy hawkweed, dwarf dandelion, rough blazing star, cylindrical blazing star, blue toadflax, wild lupine, horsemint, racemed milkwort, panic grass, Venus looking glass, flowering spurge, rosinweed, field milkwort, and colic root, bluejoint grass, cordgrass, rush, sedges, twig-rush, shrubby cinquefoil, swamp milkweed, Sullivant's milkweed, purple milkweed, and swamp thistle.


The habitat of this species has been severely degraded and diminished. Conservation and restoration of native prairie remnants is necessary. This species likely requires natural disturbances associated with prairie habitat such as prescribed fire and brush removal. Maintenance of hydrology is also likely important.

General Survey Guidelines

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgment of the investigator.

Survey Methods

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/explorer [Accessed Aug 16, 2018]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract


Survey References

Technical References

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