Maianthemum racemosum subsp. racemosum

False Solomon's seal

CODE: 08E-0001
ZONE: 4a
PRICE: $7.00
POT SIZE: 4.5"sq x 5.0", 1004 ml

Oh, when are those wacky taxonomists going to stop? Apparently the old name, Smilacina racemosa, was too easy or too memorable. I know that's not the real reason for the name change, but it sure gets frustrating sometimes.

Fortunately, it still has the same common name: false solomon's seal. It's so named because it looks very much like true solomon's seal (which is another plant), but it isn't. Tricky, eh?

This US native forms clumps that spread by thick rhizomes, eventually forming large colonies (but not in an invasive sort of way) of gracefully arching stems bearing oval, pointed light green with conspicuously parallel veins.

It's the flowers that distinguish this plant from true solomon's seal -- instead of hanging underneath the foliage all along the stem, this guy puts them all out in front in a creamy white fragrant cluster known as a raceme (hence that part of the scientific name). Eventually the flowers give way to greenish berries which turn ruby red in summer and persist into fall, falling off when the foliage yellows.

It doesn't perform well in the hot and humid summers of the South, so this is strictly a plant for Northerners. It's happiest in moist, humusy soils, but I've seen it perform admirably in dry shade as long as it had mulch. Take care not to disturb the roots, especially before the plant becomes fully established.

This is a must have for every woodland garden.

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(c) 2007 Christopher P. Lindsey