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April Flora Spotlight:
Solomon Seals

Solomonís Seal
(Polygonatum biflorum)
False Solomon's Seal
(Smilacina racemosa)

A Tale of the 
Two Solomon Seals

Cousins, Solomonís Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) and False Solomon's Seal (Smilacina racemosa), are members of the Lily family. I prefer to call False Solomonís Seal plumed Solomonís Seal because it describes the beautiful cluster of small white star-shaped flowers at the tip of the steam. By fall, the flowers are transformed into numerous clusters of berry-like fruit that is whitish with brown speckles that turn red when ripe.

Solomonís Sealís greenish white bell-like flowers are very inconspicuous and hang below the arching stem. If the flowers are pollinated, a round, bluish-black berry is formed during the summer. Both plants grow from thick rhizomes. When they emerge in spring, their shoots look alike, but when they bloom, the difference between the two is apparent. See the attached photos.

They are also differentiated by the distinctive scar left at the base of the plant stem when it is broken away from the root. Solomon's seal has a distinctive pattern which reminded early American colonists of the seal of King Solomon, while the plumed variety merely exhibits a circular pattern. 

Native Americans had a variety of uses for Solomonís Seal. A leaf tea was used as a contraceptive and as a method to sooth coughs. Root smoke was inhaled to cure headaches and to treat people for insanity. Fresh leaves were crushed and applied to cuts to stop bleeding. 

Both plants are one of our most undervalued native perennials for shade. These graceful plants tolerate dry conditions and some sun, but attain their full beauty in moist, rich woods and along stream banks. If you have a garden with a lot of shade, consider these perennial beauties as an addition to your garden.

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