Maianthemum racemosum (L.) Link

False Solomon's Seal


CC = 4
CW = 3
MOC = 67

© SRTurner

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb with long-creeping rhizomes.

Stem - Arched, to 80 cm, unbranched, minutely pubescent.

Maianthemum_racemosum_stem.jpg Stem and nodes.

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Leaves - Alternate, simple, petiolate, spreading. Petioles 1-6 mm long. Blades 7-19 cm long, elliptic to ovate, the bases rounded, the tips acuminate, minutely pubescent on the undersurface, not glaucous, the 3-5 main veins forming ridges (more pronounced when fresh).

Maianthemum_racemosum_leaves.jpg Stem and leaves.

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Maianthemum_racemosum_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

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Maianthemum_racemosum_petiole.jpg Petiole.

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Maianthemum_racemosum_margin.jpg Leaf margin, with minute bristly hairs.

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Inflorescences - Panicles of 50-250 flowers. Flowers with stalks 0.5-1.0 mm long,

Maianthemum_racemosum_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

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Maianthemum_racemosum_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescence detail.

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Flowers - Perianth spreading, the sepals and petals free, narrowly ovate, white to yellowish white. Stamens 6, free. Style 1, short, the stigma shallowly 3-lobed. Ovary superior, with 3 locules, each with usually 2 ovules.

Maianthemum_racemosum_flowers.jpg Flowers.

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Fruits - Berries 4-6 mm long, globose to shallowly 3-lobed, red at maturity, sometimes with purple spots.

Maianthemum_racemosum_fruits.jpg Immature fruits.

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Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Mesic and bottomland forests.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Lookalikes - None when flowering. Vegetatively, the plant resembles M. stellatum and Polygonatum biflorum.

Other info. - This species is found across most of Missouri, as well as the eastern half of the continental U.S. and Canada. It is uncommon or absent in the far southern regions of the country.

The form present in Missouri is relegated by most authors to ssp. racemosum. The other major form, ssp. amplexicaule, occurs in the western part of the U.S. and Canada. It is a more erect plant, with sessile clasping leaves. Missouri's other species of Maianthemum is M. stellatum, which has larger and fewer flowers in the inflorescence. It is much less common in Missouri, becoming more common in the upper Midwest. Finally, these plants are all distinguished from "true" Solomon's seal, Polygonatum biflorum, by having terminal inflorescences. In P. biflorum the flowers are axillary and hang down underneath the arching stem. P. biflorum can also be distinguished vegetatively, as the leaves are completely sessile, lacking any trace of stalk.

A synonym for the plant is Smilacina racemosa. Various parts of the plant are reportedly edible but not very tasty. The fruits can be laxative if consumed in quantity.

Photographs taken at Weldon Spring Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 5-06-2012; Klondike County Park, St. Charles County, MO, 5-12-2014; Meramec State Park, Franklin County, MO, 5-07-2019; Poison Hollow, Howell County, MO, 5-14-2019; Bootleg Access, Washington County, MO, 6-29-2022, and Glassberg Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 6-26-2023 (SRTurner).