Description & Overview

A Wisconsin woodland native, False Solomon’s Seal’s gracefully arching stems are iconic. Green-blue stalks emerge from the ground in mid-Spring, leading to bending stems that show off their foliage that zig-zags along the stem. Late spring to early summer displays a panicle of white flowers at the end of the stem that once pollinated, produces berries that begin green with purple dots, turning cherry red when they ripen in late summer or fall.

You may also know this plant as False Spikenard or False Lily-of-the-Valley.
The botanical name may be synonymous with Smilacina racemosa.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 12-36 inches

Mature Spread: 18-24 inches

Growth Rate: Perennial

Growth Form: Upright, naturalize, spreader

Light Requirements: Partial Shade to Full Shade

Site Requirements: Full - partial shade, sandy/loamy, dry - average soil, well - drained

Flower: Creamy white clusters of 1/8" star - like flowers. Spike cluster is 4" long

Bloom Period: May to June

Foliage: Green, alternate, pointed tip, parallel veins

Fall Color: Yellow

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Green, purple - dotted, round berry. Matures to red. Showy. Each ¼" berry contains a few seeds.

Suggested Uses

False Solomon’s Seal is typically found in part-shade and soft, moist soils. As a woodland plant, it grows well under pines and oaks.

Woodland/Shade Gardens: This plant is a great filler for woodland and shade gardens. Use as a groundcover and/or shaded border. Its short height, showy flowers, and eye-catching berries are great to view up close. Its slow spread through rhizomes will not overwhelm an urban landscape.

Restoration: Restore native woodlands by planting in the understory, which helps prevent exotics from taking hold while also benefitting wildlife.

A Wisconsin woodland native, False Solomon's Seal's gracefully arching stems are iconic. Green-blue stalks emerge from the ground in mid-Spring, leadi…
A Wisconsin woodland native, False Solomon's Seal's gracefully arching stems are iconic. Green-blue stalks emerge from the ground in mid-Spring, leadi…

Wildlife Value

The flowers and berries are utilized by wildlife namely, insects and birds. The flowers are pollinated by short and long-tongued bees, flies, and beetles. The Federally Endangered and State Special Concern Karner Blue has been documented as a frequent visitor seeking nectar in vain as only pollen is available as a reward.

Birds, notably the Ruffed Grouse and Veery, as well as mammals such as deer and mice, eat the berries, dispersing the seeds as they move about.

Maintenance Tips

The roots of False Solomon’s Seal do not like to be disturbed-site carefully and leave them alone!

Feel free to remove spent plant matter in spring once temps hit 50-degrees or so.

Supplemental watering should occur during times of drought.

A Wisconsin woodland native, False Solomon's Seal's gracefully arching stems are iconic. Green-blue stalks emerge from the ground in mid-Spring, leadi…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

No serious disease or pest issues.

Foliar infection with Phytophthora ramorum was found in California in 2003 First Report of Foliar Infection of Maianthemum racemosum by Phytophthora ramorum. Since this was in California and doesn’t appear on the USDA APHIS Host List and Plants Associated with Phytophthora ramorum, this information is provided for awareness purposes.

Leaf Lore

The Chippewa historically used False Solomon’s Seal by burning the roots and inhaling the fumes for headaches and pains. A decoction of the leaves was used as a contraceptive.

The Meskwaki used a compound of the root to loosen the bowels, as a smudge for “hush crying children,” and as a behavioral drug (to “bring people back to normal”, anticonvulsive, stimulant).

Other indigenous peoples used the plant to treat swelling, sore backs, and kidney troubles, and as a blood coagulant. They fed on the fresh berries and used them as flavorings for meats and young shoots (cooked and eaten like asparagus).

False Solomon’s Seal has extensive colonies of mycorrhizal fungi in their roots allowing them to have a deeper relationship with the plants around them via the fungi and the soil, including nutrient uptake. Garlic Mustard weed (Alliaria petiolata) is a non-native, invasive perennial that has taken hold of the majority of the east coast and Midwest. The growth of this pesky plant significantly impacts the growth of this fungal relationship. American Journal of Botany

Maianthemum is a compound word from two Greek words ‘Maios’ for May, and ‘anthos’ for flower-a note to its blooming period.

Companion Plants

False Solomon’s Seal is found in similar settings as Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Canada Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spp), Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata), Hostas (Hosta spp.), and Dwarf Goatsbeard (Aruncus aethusifolius).

A Wisconsin woodland native, False Solomon's Seal's gracefully arching stems are iconic. Green-blue stalks emerge from the ground in mid-Spring, leadi…
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Written by Beth DeLain