Habitat: Dry to moist woodlands
Origin of the Name: The genus name comes from poly
(many), and gonum (jointed), a reference to the jointed root. The
species name, biflorum, reflects the tendency of the flowers to hang in
pairs. The common name stems from King Solomon, the 10th century B.C. Israelite
king knowledgeable in medicinal plants. It was believed that he placed his seal
of approval on this plant.
Description: Alternate, smooth-edged pale green leaves have
parallel, hairless veins. Tubular greenish-white flowers hang along the stem in
clusters of 1-4, though usually 2. Flowers in June with fruit maturing
September-October to a deep purple or blackish hue. Typically arched and grows
to 2. Distinct from Hairy Solomons Seal (P. pubescens),
which has fine hairs on leaf veins, and from False Solomons Seal
(Smilacina racemosa), which flowers at the tip of the stem.
Observations: Solomons Seal is a joy to see as it
catches the filtered light of the oak-hickory and beech-maple canopies beneath
which it grows. The leaves unfurl themselves from around the emerging stem in
April or May, offering a velvety texture to the woodland floor. Summer flowers
dangle pendulously from the main stem, giving way to deeply colored fruit,
which contrast nicely against the plants green backdrop.
Solomons Seal is simple to propagate from seed (remove the
fleshy seed coat shortly after collecting it) or to transplant in bare root
form following plant rescues. The tuberous roots withstand being broken or cut
and will send forth a new shoot the following spring.
Medicinal Use: The root was used as an astringent and emetic.
When crushed and applied externally, the root was thought to reduce swelling
and discoloration from bruises. Solomons Seal was also used to relieve
headaches when the root was boiled in water and the decoction poured on hot
stones and the steam inhaled. The roots were dried and crushed to make flour by
Native Americans. Spring shoots and roots are edible.
Article reprinted from the Summer 1998 issue of the Ann Arbor Wild
Copyright © 1998 Wild OnesNatural Landscapers,
photos of Solomon's Seal, see the following web sites: