false Solomon's seal (Maianthemum racemosum)
false Solomon's Seal
feather solomons seal
feathery false lily of the valley
feathery false lily of the valley
feathery false solomon's-seal
Convallaria racemosa L.
Smilacina ciliata Desf.
Smilacina flexicaulis Wender
Smilacina racemosa (L.) Desf.
Smilacina racemosa var. cylindrata Fern.
Smilacina racemosa var. lanceolata Boivin
Smilacina racemosa var. typica Fern.
Vagnera australis Rydb.
Vagnera racemosa (L.) Morong
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of false Solomon's
seal is Maianthemum racemosum (L.) Link. There are two subspecies -
the plant that grows in the East is the subspecies racemosum, and the
subspecies that grows in the West is amplexicaule. The stem of
Maianthemum racemosum (ssp. racemosum) tends to be curved or
slightly zig zagged, while the stem of Maianthemum racemosum (ssp.
amplexicaule) is erect. The Atlas of Virginia Flora lists only subspecies
racemosum as occurring in Facquier County; all references to
Maianthemum racemosum will be for subspecies racemosum.
False Solomon's seal is sometimes listed as Smilacina racemosa. There
has been considerable discussion concerning the taxonomic classification
of this species. Most of the discussion concerns which of two genera -
Maianthemum or Smilacina - is to be preferred. The main difference bet-
ween the two genera is the number of floral parts. The plants that are
dimerous have four tepals, four stamens, two carpels and are considered
to be in the Maianthemum genus. The plants that are trimerous six tepals,
six stamens and three carpels are considered to be in the Smilacina genus.
Some botanists have suggested that Smilacina and Maianthemum should
be combined. Although at this point Smilacina racemosa had already been
renamed as Maianthemum racemosum, it had been and continues to be
referred to by both names. A recent genetic study of individual plant
samples from both genera, referred to the plant as Smilacina racemosa.
In the study they used an individual Smilacina racemosa ssp. amplexicaule
and concluded that this individual was more closely related to the species
of Maianthemum than the species of Smilacina.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: False Solomon's seal is a native perennial that can grow to be 16-
32” tall. The rootstocks are stout and fleshy. Stems are simple, unbranch-
ed and smooth to wealky hairy, arching gracefully. Each branched rhizome
bears one to several stems. Rhizomes exhibit circular stem scars.
Leaves: Leaves are simple, alternate and spread horizontally in two rows.
Each stem may have 12-25 or more leaves arranged along the stem in ranks.
The leaves are broad and glossy, elliptically shaped with an apiculate leaf
tip, and have an entire or crenate leaf margin. These leaves range in length
from 2.75-6” and have parallel leaf veins. The eastern subspecies has short-
petioled leaves. The western subspecies has sessile, clasping leaves.
Flowers: The inflorescence is a terminal panicle, which varies in size from 1.25-6.” The inflorescence is many-flowered, large, branched, terminal,
and pyramid-shaped. This feature distinguishes the plant from True
Solomon’s seal which has hanging bell-like flowers growing from its stem.
False Solomon’s seal’s panicles contain about 7-25 white flowers that are
a quarter of an inch in size or smaller. Flowers are white, 6-parted, starry,
and is 1/8" wide. The perianth has six separate segments. It is a complete,
hypogynous flower with 4-6 stamens and a superior ovary with 2-3 carples,
short styles and a 2-3 indistinctly lobed stigma.
Fruit/Seeds: The plant produces berries that at first have a green or yellow
tint, and are often specked but turn red as they mature. Berries are globular
and 1-2 seeded. The berry begins whiteish/pink and turns red (fruit has been described with brown-to-ruby- red speckles).
Roots: False Solomon's seal develops from thick rhizomes.
REGENERATION PROCESS: False Solomon's seal propagates
HABITAT TYPES: False Solomon's seal occurs in thickets and dune
woods, rich-soiled or sandy-soiled woodlands, clearings, and bluffs,
ravines, along shaded roadsides and urban and suburban wooded tracts
at elevations up to 2,400 feet.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: False Solomon's seal inhabits woods and
forests with full to partial sun, dry to moderate moisture, and in sandy,
loamy, rich soil.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Depending on location, False Solomon's
seal flowers from May to July; berries form as early as July and remain
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: False Solomon's seal is a species of the
eastern and mid-western parts of the United States and Canada, occurring
in all states and provinces of the eastern regions of both countries. It ex-
tends as far west as Oklahoma and north from there to Manitoba. It does
not naturally grow in the Rocky Mountain states, most of the southwestern
states, or the far western Pacific coast states. The two subspecies, when
combined, occurs in all 49 of the Continental United States; in Canada, it
is found in every province except two of the most northernmost -Yukon
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: False Solomon's seal provides nectar
for halictid bees. Fruit are a preferred food source for birds. Birds and
small mammals eat the berries (the berries are edible for humans but
have a bitter taste to them), and deer browse leaves.
False Solomon's seal is known for its showy flowers and fruit and is
used as an ornamental.
Although it is not used today for medical purposes, both subspecies
of Maianthemum racemosum were used by several different Native
American tribes in the past. The western plant (ssp. amplexicaule)
was used as a dermatological and pediatric aid. The eastern plant (ssp.
racemosum) was used for to help treat several different aliments,
including: headaches, sore backs, upset stomachs, rashes, snakebites,
tapeworms, the common cold and rheumatoid arthritis. It was used as
a form of birth control in the same manner as the morning after pill is
used today. And it was also used for ceremonial purposes and was
believed to cure insanity and “revive the comatose.”
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