Solomons seal

Ruscaceae (Ruscus Family)

Description: Perennial herb with 1-6 ft. long, arching stems with alternate, smooth leaves, narrowly oval with prominent parallel veins. Greenish white, bell-shaped flowers and blue-black berries hang below leaves. Flowers May-June; fruits Sept.-Oct.

Habitat/range: Variety of dry-moist forests, including cove forests, oak-hickory forests, and chestnut oak forests. Common. Widespread in eastern and central North America, west to New Mexico.

Taxonomy: The genus Polygonatum consists of about 60 species of Europe, Asia, and North America, 2 of which occur in the mountains and piedmont. Solomon's seal and false Solomon seal (Maianthemum racemosum) are similar vegetatively but differ in that the flowers and fruits of Solomon's seal hang beneath the stem, whereas those of false Solomon's seal are clustered at the stem tips.

Ecology: Solomon's seal tolerates a wide range of conditions but grows best in rich, moist woodlands. Plants have either 2 or 4 sets of chromosomes, thus both diploid and tetraploid plants occur. Tetraploids are typically larger than diploids and produce more flowers and fruits. Rhizomes with knobby swellings run horizontally beneath the soil surface from which the arching stems arise. In winter, the deciduous stems leave a circular scar atop the rootstalk that is thought to resemble the seal of King Solomon, hence the common name. The location of the flowers beneath the leafy stem provides shelter from the potentially damaging effects of wind and rain.

Wildlife: Bumblebees pollinate the flowers in spring, birds disperse the seeds in autumn, and white-tailed deer graze the foliage throughout the growing season.

Uses: Its arching stems and graceful habit add interest to gardens.

Polystichum acrostichoides (Michx.) Schott

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