False 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.
Watershield is a perennial aquatic plant whose bright green, shield-shaped leaves float on the surface of shallow water in lakes and beaver ponds. Its small purple flowers bloom from June through September, with each individual flower only lasting two days. One the first day, the female flower parts (stigma, style, ovary) are mature. After receding into the water overnight, the flower re-emerges with mature male flower parts (stamens, filaments, anthers). The anthers burst open, releasing pollen to the wind, and the flower is then withdrawn below the water where the fruit develops.
The horizontal rhizomes, or stems, of Watershield, as well as the undersides of the leaves and developing buds, are covered with a thick, jelly-like slime. Botanists theorize that it may deter snails from grazing on these plants. Watershield secretes a number of chemicals that kill or inhibit growth of a wide range of bacteria, algae, and other plants.
For the most part, muskrats are herbivores. They consume with relish the leaves, stems and rhizomes of emergent aquatic plants such as cattails, bulrushes, sedges, horsetails, water lilies and arrowheads. Fish, frogs and invertebrates, including crayfish and clams, are also eaten to a lesser extent. Muskrats are voracious eaters (captive muskrats eat 25 – 30% of their weight daily). When their numbers are very high, muskrats can cause what is referred to as an “eat-out,” where they mow down everything in sight.
Like beavers, muskrats can close their upper lips behind their incisors in order to cut plants underwater without taking in water and choking. (photo: two young muskrats feeding on aquatic vegetation)