Flowers of the Day: Solomon’s Seals (false and not)

Walk along the wooded, rocky slopes of the Potomac River now and you will see lots of graceful, arching plants with long leaves alternating along a single stem.  They might look identical, but there are several different species that can’t be distinguished until they bloom.  Depending on which nomenclature system you consult, they may be placed in the Liliaceae (lily family), or Asparagaceae (asparagus family), or even Ruscaceae, formerly known as Convallariaceae… taxonomy, what a headache.

Standing about two feet tall is the very common smooth Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), with 2 or more flowers in a cluster dangling from the leaf axils:

a whole lot of Solomon's seal

Much less common is great Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum canaliculatum), which can stand as tall as five feet.  Note the small trees alongside the plant in the next picture:

great Solomon's seal  great Solomon's seal closeup

The false Solomon’s seals are distinguished by having terminal rather than axillary clusters of flowers.  Here’s Maianthemum racemosum in bloom (see May 7 for a dramatic picture of it in bud):

false Solomon's seal 2

There’s also starry false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum), which I have yet to find.

2 thoughts on “Flowers of the Day: Solomon’s Seals (false and not)

  1. 🙂 I subscribed to this and every time I get the post (via email) it makes me smile at work, where I can’t even see the outside. 🙂 Thank you for doing this… (it’s so lovely to learn and see new plants every day!)

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