Polygonatum biflorum (Walter) Elliott

Solomon's Seal


CC = 4
CW = 3
MOC = 81

© DETenaglia

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb with stout rhizomes, lacking the odor of onion or garlic.

Polygonatum_biflorum_habit.jpg Flowering habit.

© SRTurner

Stems - Arching to ascending, to 1.5 m, unbranched, sometimes somewhat flexuous, glabrous, often glaucous.

Polygonatum_biflorum_stem.jpg Stem and leaf base.

© DETenaglia

Leaves - Alternate, 10-25 on stem, simple, entire, sessile, 5.5-18 cm long, elliptic to ovate or nearly circular, glabrous, glaucous on the undersurface, the main veins 7-19, raised on the undersurface, the basal few reduced to bladeless sheaths.

Polygonatum_biflorum_leaves1.jpg Leaves, adaxial.

© SRTurner

Polygonatum_biflorum_leaf2.jpg Leaf, abaxial.

© SRTurner

Inflorescences - Stalked, axillary clusters of 1-15 flowers, the main stalks 5-60 mm long, arched, sometimes flattened, the individual flower stalks 2-20 mm long, often subtended by small linear bracts to about 1.1 mm long. Flowers pendent, not replaced by bulblets.

Polygonatum_biflorum_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Perianth 14-23 mm long, tubular, the 6 tepals fused nearly to the tips, greenish white to yellowish green, the lobes straight or more commonly spreading, usually green, glabrous. Stamens 6, fused to the perianth tube near the middle. Filaments to 4 mm long, glabrous. Anthers yellow, 4.5 mm long, introrse. Style 1, the stigma capitate or slightly 3-lobed. Ovary superior, 5 mm long, with 3 locules, each with 2-6 ovules.

Polygonatum_biflorum_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Polygonatum_biflorum_flowers3.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Polygonatum_biflorum_flowers2.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Polygonatum_biflorum_flowers4.jpg Flower, sectioned.

© SRTurner

Fruits - Globose berries, black at maturity, 7-15 mm.

Polygonatum_biflorum_fruits.jpg Immature fruits.

© SRTurner

Polygonatum_biflorum_fruit2.jpg Immature fruit, sectioned.

© SRTurner

Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Mesic and bottomland forests in valleys and ravines, streambanks, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - Maianthemum spp., Uvularia spp.

Other info. - This species is common throughout Missouri and the eastern half of the continental U.S. It is recognized by its arching stems will sessile leaves having parallel venation. The appearance is quite similar to the so-called "false" Solomon's seal, which belong to the genus Maianthemum; however, those plants have leaves which have very short petioles rather than being sessile. When flowering these are easy to tell apart, since Polygonatum biflorum hangs its flowers downward along the stem, whereas the inflorescences of Maianthemum are terminal, at the end of the stem. Solomon's seal varies considerably in size and overall robustness. The taxonomy of this species is somewhat confusing. Missouri plants have been called P. canaliculatum by misapplication. Additionally, the species has been subdivided, with Missouri plants referred to as var. commutatum or var. biflorum.

Solomon's seal is sometimes cultivated as a garden ornamental. Young foliage can be cooked an eaten like asparagus, and the rhizomes have been dried and ground into flour or used like potatoes. Care must be taken in these cases to ensure proper ID, since the plants often grow near other species which are toxic. The term "Solomon's seal" is derived from the appearance of scars occurring along the rhizome, which purportedly resemble the ancient Hebrew seal of King Solomon.

Photographs taken in Linville, NC., 5-11-03 (DETenaglia); also along the Al Foster Trail near Glencoe, St. Louis County, MO, 4-17-2010, Washington State Park, Washington County, MO, 6-23-2011, along the Katy Trail near Dutzow, Warren County, MO, 5-22-2014, Young Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 5-17-2019, along the Katy Trail near Marthasville, Warren County, MO, 5-24-2020, near Blue Spring, Shannon County, MO, 5-18-2023, and at Glassberg Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 6-26-2023 (SRTurner).