Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Native Species Profile - Feathery False Solomon's Seal

Feathery False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) is a large wildflower found throughout the eastern United States and Canada. The name Maianthemum means "May flower".  Racemosum refers to the plant's bloom - a raceme .  A raceme is a single spike of flowers at the end a plant in which each flower grows on a short stem off the main stem, flowers bloom from the base to the tip of the raceme in sequence.  Feathery False Solomon's Seal was formerly known as Smilacina racemosa but was recently renamed and reclassified from the Lily Family (Liliaceae) to the Butcher's Broom Family (Ruscaceae).  Many books still list the plant under this older classification and name.

Feathery False Solomon's Seal - note the raceme of flowers
The Feathery False Solomon's Seal has small (1/8 inch) white flowers with three petals and three petal-like sepals.  Although the individual flowers are small, the raceme may be up to 4 inches long.  The plant blooms between May (as its name implies) and July.

Feathery False Solomon's Seal flower

The plant itself is between 1 and 3 feet tall.  The plant does not grow upright, but instead bends into an arc. It typically grows in wooded areas, but can sometimes be found in open areas.  The plant prefers moist habitats but will grow in drier soils.

The plant has alternate, elliptical shaped leaves that grow are up to 6 inches long and 3 inches wide.  The leaves are marked by heavy parallel veins that run form the base of the leaf to the pointed tip.

Feathery False Solomon's Seal - note the alternate leaves and the prominent parallel veins

There is a second species of False Solomon's Seal that is native to eastern North America - Star-flowered False Solomon's Seal (Maianthenum stellatum).  The two plants are easy to distinguish because M. stellatum has fewer flowers, but each flower is larger (1/3 inch across).

Star-flowered False Solomon's Seal

Basic Information

Feathery False Solomon’s Seal 
Smilacina racemosa or Maianthemum racemosum

Height:  1-3’ tall

Habitat:  deciduous woods

Flower Color:  white

Bloom Time:  May – July

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