Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

Polygonatum-biflorum-2013-05-08-Fox-Chapel-01

Little green bells dangle from arching stalks, almost invisible unless you look for them. The name “Solomon’s Seal” comes from the six-pointed scar left on the root by the withered stem; the species name “biflorum” refers to the plant’s habit of growing flowers in pairs. This plant was growing along the Trillium Trail in Fox Chapel,where it was blooming in early May.

Until flower buds appear, this plant and False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) are hard to tell apart. Both have traditionally been placed in the lily family Liliaceae, but modern botanists have separated the Asparagus family Asparagaceae, taking the Solomon’s Seals with it.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

POLYGÓNATUM [Tourn.] Hill. SOLOMON’S SEAL. Perianth cylindrical, 6-lobed at the summit; the 6 stamens inserted on or above the middle of the tube, included; anthers introrse. Ovary 3-celled, with 2-в ovules in each cell; style slender, deciduous by a joint; stigma obtuse or capitate, obscurely 3-lobed. Berry globular, black or blue; the cells 1-2-seeded. — Perennial herbs, with simple stems from creeping knotted rootetocks, naked below, above bearing nearly sessile or half-clasping nerved leaves, and axillary nodding greenish flowers; pedicels jointed near the flower. (Name from poly-, many, and gony, knee, alluding to the numerous joints of the rootstock.)

P. biflòrum (Walt) Ell. (SMALL S.) Glabrous, except the ovate-oblong or lance-oblong nearly sessile leaves, which are commonly minutely pubescent as well as pale or glaucous underneath; stem slender (3-9 dm. high); peduncles 1-3- but mostly 2-flowered; perianth 10-12 mm. long; filaments papillose-roughened, inserted toward the summit of the perianth. (? P. boreale Greene; P. cuneatum Greene; Salomonta biflora Farwell.) — Wooded hillsides, N. B. to Fla., w. to Ont., e. Kan., and Tex.

 

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