Wildflower enthusiasts who are familiar with the Solomon’s Seal




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SOLOMON’S PLUME
Wildflower enthusiasts who are familiar with the Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum [Walter] Elliott) are probably familiar with its relative, the Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum [L.] Link). Although the leaves of both species are similar, their flowers are quite different.

Solomon’s Plume is a member of the Order Asparagales, the Family Asparagaceae, and the Subfamily Nolinoideae. Some references place it in the Order Liliales and in the Family Liliaceae, the Family Convallariaceae, or the Family Ruscaceae.

The generic name, Maiathemum, is Greek for “May blossom”. Maios or maius is “May” and anthemon is “blossom” or “flower”. The specific epithet, racemosum, is Latin for “having a raceme”, due to its flowering cluster.

Previous scientific synonyms for this plant have been Convallaria ciliata (Desfontaines) Poiret, C. racemosa L., Polygonastrum racemosum (L.) Moench, Sigillaria ciliata (Desfontaines) Rafinesque, S. multiflora Rafinesque, Smilacina ciliata Desfontaines, S. flexicaulis Wenderoth, S. latifolia Nuttall ex Baker, S. racemosa (L.) Desfontaines, Tovaria racemosa (L.) Necker ex Baker, Unifolium racemosum (L.) Britton, Vagnera australis Small, V. racemosa (L.) Morung ex Kearney, and V. retusa Rafinesque.

This plant is called False Solomon’s Seal because it was thought to have no magical properties of the real Solomon’s Seal. At different times and places, other common names for this species are Clustered Solomon’s Seal, False Lily-of-the Valley, False Solomon’s Seal, False Spikenard, Feather False Solomon’s Seal, Feather Solomon’s Seal, Goldenseal, Jacob’s Ladder, Job’s Tears, Large False Solomon’s Seal, Plumed Solomon’s Seal, Scurvy Berry, Snake Corn, Solomon’s Feathers, Solomon’s Phone, Solomon’s Zigzag, Spiked Solomon’s Seal, Spikenard, Tobacco Berry, Treacle Berry, Wild Spikenard, Wood Lily, and Zigzag Solomon’s Seal.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SOLOMON’S PLUME


Perennial

Height: Its height is 1-3½ feet.

Stem: Its stem is single, unbranched, stiff, erect or arching, and slightly zigzag.

Leaves: Its leaves are simple and alternate. Each leaf is oblong, oval, elliptical, or lanceolate; bright green above and hairy below; ribbed; about 3-6 inches long and about 1-3 inches wide; and has a pointed tip and a blunt or rounded base. The leaves are sessile and may not clasp the stem. Its margin is entire and undulating. Its veins are broadly parallel and deeply etched. White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann) eat the foliage.

Flowers: Its flowers are arranged in a branched, terminal, flat, feathery, pyramidal, and panicled 1-6 inch long cluster of 7-250 tiny flowers. Each flower is radially symmetrical; star-shaped; about 1/8-¼ inches long; about 1/6 inches wide; creamy white; and fragrant. It has 3 petals, 3 sepals, 6 stamens that are longer than the tepals, and 1 pistil. All flowering parts are attached at the base of the ovary. Bees (Superfamily Apoidea), Flies (Order Diptera), and Beetles (Order Coleoptera) pollinate these flowers. Their blooming period is 3 weeks. Flowering season is April to July.

Fruit: Its fruit is a rounded berry with 1-2 seeds. When young, the berry is yellow-green or whitish with red or brown spots. It later becomes a dull, translucent red with purple spots. Each berry has 3 chambers with 1-2 seeds per chamber. The seeds are roundish and slightly wrinkled. Some of the seeds are produced without fertilization but are genetically identical to the parent plant. Birds (Class Aves) and small Mammals (Class Mammalia) eat these berries and help spread the seeds.

Roots: Its root system consists of stout, thick, cylindrical, creeping, fleshy, light brown, knotty, and elongated rhizomes with secondary fibrous roots.

Habitat: Its habitats consist of moist, rich deciduous or mixed woods; thickets; floodplains; stream banks; savannas; clearings; and roadsides. They may be found in large patches.

Range: Its range covers Canada and the U.S. as far west as the Rocky Mountains.
Uses:

Solomon’s Plume has several medicinal uses. It was used as an anti-hemorrhagic, an analgesic, an anthelmintic, a diaphoretic, a diuretic, a purgative, a sedative, a stimulant, and a tonic. A root tea was used for treating constipation, rheumatism, and stomach trouble. A leaf tea was used as a contraceptive and for treating coughs. The root smoke was inhaled for treating insanity and to induce sleep. A root poultice was used for treating sunburns. A leaf poultice was used for bleeding, itching, and rashes. This plant was also used for treating aches and pains, cuts, colds, headaches, heart trouble, itching, kidney ailments, snakebites, sore throat, and swelling.

Solomon’s Plume has some edible uses as well. The rootstock is edible but bitter. It should be boiled in several changes of water or soaked overnight in wood ash lye mixture of ½-¾ cups of ash to 1 gallon of water. Afterwards, they are parboiled for ½ hour to remove the lye. It can be pickled and used as relish or eaten like a potato. The young shoots can be boiled in salt water for 10 minutes and eaten like asparagus. The berries are also edible. They taste like treacle, a bitter English molasses, and contain vitamin C. They were once used for treating scurvy. However, they are cathartic if consumed in large amounts.

REFERENCES


NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION FIELD GUIDE TO WILDFLOWERS OF NORTH AMERICA

By David M. Brandenburg


WILDFLOWERS IN THE FIELD AND FOREST

By Steven Clements and Carol Gracie


THE HISTORY AND FOLKLORE OF NORTH AMERICAN WILDFLOWERS

By Timothy Coffey


THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EDIBLE PLANTS OF NORTH AMERICA

By Francois Couplan, Ph. D.


COMMON FLOWERING PLANTS OF THE NORTHEAST

By Donald D. Cox


WILDFLOWERS OF ONTARIO

By Timothy Dickinson, Deborah Metsger, Jenny Bull, and Richard Dickinson


WILD ROOTS

By Doug Elliott


EDIBLE WILD PLANTS OF EASTERN NORTH AMERICA

By Merritt Lyndon Fernald and Alfred Charles Kinsey


EASTERN/CENTRAL MEDICINAL PLANTS AND HERBS

By Steven Foster and James A. Duke


WILD FLOWERS OF OHIO

By Robert L. Henn


WILDFLOWERS AND FERNS OF INDIANA FORESTS

By Michael A. Homoya


THE JOY OF WILDFLOWERS

By Millie B. House


MEDICINAL PLANTS OF THE HEARTLAND

By Connie Kaye and Neil Billington


ILLINOIS WILDFLOWERS

By Don Kurz


A GUIDE TO WILDFLOWERS IN WINTEER

By Carol Levine and Dick Rauh


WILDFLOWER FOLKLORE

By Laura C. Martin


NATIVE AMERICAN MEDICINAL PLANTS

By Daniel E. Moerman


NEWCOMB’S WILDFLOWER GUIDE

By Lawrence Newcomb and Gordon Morrison


EDIBLE WILD PLANTS

By Lee Allen Peterson


WILDFLOWERS

By Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny


WILD EDIBLE PLANTS OF NEW ENGLAND

By Joan Richardson


BORN IN THE SPRING

By June Carver Roberts


THE SECRETS OF WILDFLOWERS

By Jack Sanders


FAVORITE WILDFLOWERS OF THE GREAT LAKES AND NORTHEASTERN U.S.

By Dick Schinkel and David Mohrhardt


NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO WILDFLOWERS (EASTERN REGION)

By John W. Thieret, William A. Niering, and Nancy C. Olmstead


THE USES OF WILD PLANTS

By Frank Tozer


WILDFLOWERS OF NORTH AMERICA

By Frank D. Venning and Manabu C. Saito


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maianthemum_racemosum
www.illinoiswildflowers.info/woodland/plants/fs_solomon.htm


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