SOLOMON'S SEAL (Polygonatum)
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
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, Small Solomon's Seal, Sow's Teats, He Shou Wu, Mahmeda, Meda
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.
Genus: Polygonatum Family: Ruscaceae; Liliaceae (lily) Species: Biflorum
Type: Perennial Hardiness: Zones 4a - 9b Bloom Time: Mid - Late Spring/Early Summer
Exposure: Sun to Partial Shade/Light Shade, woodland Height: 18" - 24" Spread: Yes
Description: Hardy woodland perennial has stems that curve gracefully and bear pale green, oval leaves and drooping clusters of creamy white flowers, followed by blue-black berries. 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. It often grows in a slight arc. 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 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. Because of the creeping rootstock, the plant multiplies very rapidly.
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.
Fertilizing: Fertilize with leafmould, or an annual top dressing of decayed manure in March.
Soil and pH: Light, well drained, moist, humus-rich acidic soil with a pH of 5.0-7.0. with a cool root run.
Watering: Water regularly; do not over-water
Pests/Diseases: No special problems
Propogation/Transplanting: By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets), or by seeds. Gather and sow seeds as soon as gathered in autumn, they 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. 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.
Notes/Gardening Tips: Plant's age may be estimated by examining the rhizome. Each year the stem leaves a scar, or "seal" on the rhizome. 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 native to North America, northern Europe and Siberia, and cultivated as popular garden ornamentals.
Solomon's Seal is named for the Biblical King Solomon, who, granted great wisdom by the Hebrew God, 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 fair and lovely skin. In the sixteenth century, the herbalist John Gerard, was so enamored by Solomon's Seal's diverse healing qualities, thathe pronounced: "Common experience teacheth, that in the world there is not to be found another herbe comparable to it." and 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. He also wrote that when taken internally, the roots were excellent for "broken bones to knit." 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.