Species Profile

Pink Milkwort

Scientific Name: Polygala incarnata
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
COSEWIC Range: Ontario
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2009
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B1ab(iii)+2ab(iii)
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This annual herb is highly restricted geographically and is present in tallgrass prairie habitats in southwestern Ontario. There are likely four populations with a total of approximately 1800 plants, most of which are found in one population. Threats to all populations include encroachment by woody plants due to fire suppression and invasive species. Habitat conversion to agriculture, housing development, mowing, trampling, drainage and moisture alteration threaten three populations. 
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1984. Status re-examined and confirmed Endangered in April 1998, May 2000, and November 2009.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Pink Milkwort

Pink Milkwort Photo 1
Pink Milkwort Photo 2

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Description

The Pink Milkwort is an annual herb. It usually has only one stem with a few leaves; the leaves measure 5 to 12 mm in length. The pale rose-purple flowers grow in clusters; the seeds are hairy and measure about 2 mm in length.

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Distribution and Population

The North American range of the Pink Milkwort extends from Long Island west to Iowa and south to Florida and Texas. It is most abundant in the Carolinas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and is endangered in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. In Canada, the Pink Milkwort is found only in southern Ontario. Its known Canadian distribution has expanded since 1983 to include several sites on Walpole Island and one site in the Ojibway Prairie Provincial Nature Reserve in Windsor. The total number of Pink Milkwort plants in Canada is estimated to be about 400 (28 in Windsor, 14 on Squirrel Island, and the remainder on Walpole Island). Two populations were extirpated prior to 1985, two more have become extirpated since 1985.

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Habitat

The Pink Milkwort grows in open, mesic to dry mesic sand prairie. The species is closely associated with Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).

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Biology

In Canada, the Pink Milkwort flowers from mid-July to mid-August. Bumblebees are the main pollinators. The Pink Milkwort reproduces through seeds, which are dispersed by ants and the wind.

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Threats

The destruction or modification of the habitat, due mainly to conversion into agricultural land and urbanization, is the main anthropogenic limiting factor for the Pink Milkwort. Alteration of soil moisture regimes due to changes in drainage patterns is an indirect negative effect of development. Collection of specimens is a threat to the Canadian populations of Pink Milkwort. Major natural limiting factors include the specialized habitat requirements of the species and the dynamic nature of its preferred habitat. Periodic fire is an extremely important factor in maintaining the open prairie habitat conditions the species favours.

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Pink Milkwort is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

The Pink Milkwort occurs on land belonging to the Walpole Island First Nation, which is federal land protected under SARA. It is also protected by the Ontario Endangered Species Act. Under this Act, it is prohibited to kill, harm, harass, or collect this species, or to destroy its habitat. One population also occurs on public land designated as a Provincial Nature Reserve.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Pink Milkwort (Polygala incarnata) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Pink Milkwort Polygala incarnata in Canada (2010-09-03)

    Pink Milkwort (Polygala incarnata) is an annual herb of the milkwort family (Polygalaceae) with a single, smooth, greyish, slender, unbranched or sparingly branched stem and tiny narrow leaves. Mature plants are usually 20 - 40 cm tall. Rose purple, tubular flowers in a dense terminal head continue opening throughout the flowering season. The fruit is a green 2-celled capsule. The seeds are black, hairy, and about 2 mm long with a small two-lobed air-filled, sac-like appendage.

COSEWIC Assessments

  • COSEWIC Assessment Summary and Status Report: Pink Milkwort Polygala incarnata (2010-09-03)

    Assessment Summary – November 2009 Common name Pink Milkwort Scientific name Polygala incarnata Status Endangered Reason for designationThis annual herb is highly restricted geographically and is present in tallgrass prairie habitats in southwestern Ontario. There are likely four populations with a total of approximately 1800 plants, most of which are found in one population. Threats to all populations include encroachment by woody plants due to fire suppression and invasive species. Habitat conversion to agriculture, housing development, mowing, trampling, drainage and moisture alteration threaten three populations. Occurrence Ontario Status history Designated Endangered in April 1984. Status re–examined and confirmed Endangered in April 1998, May 2000, and November 2009. Please note that the related COSEWIC Status Report is available below in PDF format. You will be asked to provide your e-mail address then you will receive a link to download the publication. After processing, your email address is not retained in any way and is automatically discarded by our system.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Pink Milkwort (2010-12-02)

    This annual herb is highly restricted geographically and is present in tallgrass prairie habitats in southwestern Ontario. There are likely four populations with a total of approximately 1800 plants, most of which are found in one population. Threats to all populations include encroachment by woody plants due to fire suppression and invasive species. Habitat conversion to agriculture, housing development, mowing, trampling, drainage and moisture alteration threaten three populations. 

Recovery Strategies

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010-09-03)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing permit(#19), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2006-06-01)

    Activities may include any of the following for any species: Collection of small amounts of seed (<1%) for propagation ex situ for the pupose of studying seed viability, germination condisions and rates. Collection of a mall proportion (<1%) of inflorescences or flowers for the purpose of determining fertility, seed predation rates, etc. Removal of a small number (<0.1%) of individuals of annual species (e.g. Agalinus spp.) for research on habitat and microsite requirements. Collection of seed for the purpose of propagation ex situ plants to provide material for research and/or for restoration projects. Mapping location, counting and setting up permanent study quadrats may sometime involve accidental trampling of some plants and portions of some habitat. This will be kept to a minimum. Some perturbation of habitat may occur during removal of invasive species. Some experimental purturbation of habitat for restoration purposes may be done in locations where species at risk are thought to be extirpated.
  • Explanation for issuing permit(#SARA-OR-2008-0085), persuant to the provisions of section 73 of SARA (2008-05-13)

    Activities will include census of populations of White Prairie Gentian, Showy Golden Rod, Pink Milkwort and Small White Ladies Slipper on Walpole Island First Nation; collection of sample leaves from White Prairie Gentian for genetic analysis; detailed measurements and collection of limited fruit capsules from Small White Ladies Slipper; and collection of small amounts of seeds from White Prairie Gentian, Showy Goldenrod, Pink Milkwort, Kentucky Coffee Tree and Common Hop Tree for propagation ex situ for the purpose studying seed viability, germination conditions and rates, and eventual planting of propagated plants to a protected tallgrass prairie / oak savanna / woodland restoration sites on the Walpole Island First Nation. Some experimental perturbation of habitat for restoration purposes may be done in locations where species at risk are thought to be extirpated.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – November 2010 (2010-12-02)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 4, 2011 for species undergoing normal consultations and by February 4, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.
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