SOLOMON'S SEAL (Polygonatum)
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
Family: Ruscaceae; Liliaceae (lily) Genus: Polygonatum Species: biflorum Category: Perennial
Bloom Color: Pale Yellow/Yellow-Green, White/Off White Foliage: Herbaceous, Smooth-Textured
Bloom Time: Mid - Late Spring/Early Summer
Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade/Light Shade, woodland Hardiness: USDA Zones 4a - 9b
Fertilizer/Soil and pH/Watering: Water regularly; do not over-water Solomon's Seal thrives in light, well drained, moist, humus-rich acidic soil with a pH of 5.0-7.0. with a cool root run.
Cultivation: Rhizomes should be planted 2 inches deep in the Spring or Fall. but may safely be done at any time, if taken up with plenty of soil, until they begin to shoot in the spring, when the ground should be dug about them and kept clean from weeds. They should also have room to spread and must not be removed oftener than every third or fourth year. To give Solomon's Seal a good start when planting, the soil should be well broken up with a fork and have a little mild manure worked in. Fertilize with leafmould, or an annual top dressing of decayed manure in March.
Pests/Diseases: No special problems
Tips: You can estimate the plant's age by examining the rhizome. Each year the stem leaves a scar, or "seal" on the rhizome. Counting these will give you an idea of how long your plant has been alive. When harvesting the roots, leave several inches (or 3-4 nodes) of the newest portion untouched so that you don't kill or damage the plant.
Dividing/Transplanting: By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets), or by seeds. Gather and sow seeds as soon as gathered in autumn,will germinate in early spring. The best time to transplant or part the roots is in autumn, after the stalks decay. Seed grown plants will take as long as four years to reach blooming size.
General Characteristics: Solomon's Seal is a close relative of Lily of the Valley and was formerly assigned to the same genus (Convallaria, now Liliaceae), with several similar species that are native to North America, northern Europe and Siberia, and cultivated as popular garden ornamentals. The hardy woodland perennial has stems up to two feet in height that curve gracefully and bear pale green, oval leaves and drooping clusters of creamy white flowers, followed by blue-black berries. Except for the root and tender young shoots, all parts of the adult plant, especially the berries are poisonous and should not be consumed. The berries may cause vomiting, and the leaves, nausea, if chewed.
The plant consists of a single stem with many broad, ovate leaves with parallel veination arranged alternately along the length of it and clasping the base. The plant often grows in a slight arc and the flowers dangle from the leaf axils beneath the arc of the stem. (This gives the plant its folk name "sow's teats"). The large and broadly-oval leaves grow alternately on the stem, practically clasping it by the bases. All the leaves have the character of turning one way, being bent slightly upward, as well as to one side, and have very marked longitudinal ribbing on their surfaces. The flowers are in little drooping clusters of from two to seven, springing from the axils of the leaves, but hanging in an opposite direction to the foliage. They are tubular in shape, of a creamy or waxy white, topped with a yellowish-green, and sweet-scented, and are succeeded by small berries about the size of a pea, of a blackish-blue colour, varying to purple and red, and containing about three or four seeds.
The Root (Rhizome):. The plant's botanical genus, Polygonatum, refers to the "many-angled" knots on the root or the numerous joints on the stems. The specific name, multiflorum, serves to distinguish this many-flowered species from another in which the blossoms are solitary, or only in pairs from each axil. The creeping rootstock, or underground stem, is thick and white and is lifted in autumn and used in herbal medicine. Because of the creeping rootstock, the plant multiplies very rapidly.
Other Common Names: Fragrant Solomon's Seal, Lady's Seals, Saint Mary's Seal, Sealwort, Sigillum Sanctae Mariae, Yu Zhu, Angular Solomon's Seal, True Solomon's Seal, Dropberry, Sealroot, American Solomon's Seal, King Solomon's Seal, King Solomon's-seal, Small Solomon's Seal, Sow's Teats, Dropberry, He Shou Wu, Mahmeda, Meda
History & Culinary Qualities: .Solomon's Seal is named for the Biblical King Solomon, who was granted great wisdom by the Hebrew God and had a special seal that aided him in his magical workings, allowing him to command demons without coming to harm. According to herbal lore, King Solomon himself placed his seal upon this plant when he recognized its great value. Those with imagination can see the seal on the rootstock in the circular scars left by the stem after it dies back.
In A.D. 130-200, the most famous physician of his day, Galen, recommended the use of Solomon's Seal root to remove freckles, spots and marks for a fresh, fair and lovely skin. In the sixteenth century, the herbalist, John Gerard, in his Herball, claimed that Solomon's Seal was an effective treatment for cuts, wounds and bruises of all kinds (when used in a poultice). The herbalist also said that when taken internally, the roots were excellent for "broken bones to knit." So enamored by Solomon's Seal's diverse healing qualities, he pronounced: "Common experience teacheth, that in the world there is not to be found another herbe comparable to it." In his publication, Theatrum Botanicum, of 1640, John Parkinson, a renowned British apothecary, noted that Italian women used the root to improve their complexions and retain their beauty and agelessness. In North America, early native tribes made a tea of the rootstock as a cure for women's complaints and general internal pains.