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False Solomon’s Seal

Rose Twisted Stalk Flowering

rosybells 084From above, you might mistake Rose Twisted Stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus), or Rosybells, for Solomon’s Seal or False Solomon’s Seal, but the alternate leaves and the zigzag stem quickly reveal its true identity.  This native member of the lily family has delicate, bell-shaped, pink flowers dangling underneath its leaves – one solitary flower opposite each leaf.  The “twisted stalk” in its common name refers to the long flower stalks, each of which is twisted, or bent, in the middle.  By July or August, these flowers, if fertilized, will have developed into red berries. (Thanks to Virginia Barlow for photo op.)

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False Solomon’s Seal Fruiting

10-9-15 false solomon's seal berries  079False Solomon’s Seal’s (Maianthemum racemosum) leaves are starting to lose their chlorophyll, bringing attention to its bright red fruit this time of year. This member of the Lily family’s flower arrangement differs from true Solomon’s Seal’s (Polygonatum biflorum) whose flowers dangle down below the leaves singly or in pairs. There are several theories as to the derivation of False Solomon’s Seal’s name, ranging from the appearance of its leaf scars (King Solomon supposedly was responsible for their markings which resemble a signet ring with Hebrew letters) to its six-pointed flowers that resemble the Star of David which was commonly called Solomon’s Seal.

False Solomon’s Seal often appears in clusters, as the stems are the annual growths off of a perennial rhizome (the subterranean stem of a plant). In the spring, each stem develops a terminal cluster of small, white, star-shaped flowers. Bees and beetles are the chief pollinators that enable the plant to produce green berries that turn red in the late summer and fall (soil pH affects the final coloration of the fruit formed). The roots of False Solomon’s Seal have been used medicinally in a number of ways, but one of the more unusual ways of utilizing this plant was that of a Native American tribe in California that used an effusion of crushed False Solomon’s Seal roots to stun fish and facilitate their harvest from streams.

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