“Believe one who knows: you will find something greater in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.” ~Saint Bernard de Clairvaux
As I dream about my garden in late February, I am anticipating the first flowers of spring. And wondering what wonderful native plants will be showing up in a big way. I have tried to grow the plant shown here, Polygonatum biflorum, and was successful two years ago. If these plants come back in year three, I hope they will be growing up and out in a big way too.
Also known as Smooth Solomon’s seal, Great Solomon’s-seal, Solomon’s seal and Sealwort, Polygonia biflorum is native to a large area of North America and is a member of the Lily Family (Liliaceae). You can find it growing in dry to moist woods and thickets, in sandy, loamy or rocky soils from Nova Scotia south to Florida and over to Texas and northern Mexico. You can also find it growing across the northern US and southern Canadian border west, all the way to Minnesota and North Dakota.
The arching stalks grow from 1-5 ft. long with nodding, greenish-white, tubular flowers appearing in May. They hang in pairs, and often are hidden by the foliage. The flowers open to resemble bells, and eventually turn into small blue berries.
The name Polygonatum comes from the Greek, “poly” meaning many, and “gony” meaning knees referring to the many jointed rhizome. And biflorum is from the Latin “biflorus” meaning two flowers referring to the pair of flowers.
As I profile this wonderful native plant, I am linking in with [email protected]Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme, and [email protected]Elephant’s Eye at False Bay for her Dozen for Diana monthly meme. And I am joining forces once again this year with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to buy native plants for my garden. The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials. Check out their Spring 2016 catalog.
Solomon’s seal grows in part shade to full shade in dry to moist soil. It will tolerate a variety of soils from sandy to loamy to clay. It will grow especially well at the base of trees, which makes me want to include many of these in my White Garden once I redesign it.
It is hardy in zones 3-9, and will take at least 2 years to get established, growing in slow spreading stands. I am hoping mine colonizes the area around the back of our air conditioning unit where I have my deep shade garden.
You can propagate this plant by seed or root cuttings. I planted mine from cuttings. Be forewarned that they could take a year before you see any growth from the root cuttings. Be sure to plant the cuttings horizontally with the buds up. You can divide the rhizomes in spring and fall to spread around your garden.
Benefits to Wildlife
The flowers are said to attract hummingbirds, pollinators and butterflies. I hope to see these critters visiting my Solomon’s seal this spring.
The blue berries are eaten by birds and small mammals. I think the mice and voles may have eaten the berries on my small plants.
Foliage also provides cover for wildlife. I find frogs hanging out in my shade garden among the foliage.
Mammals also like to eat the roots of this plant.
This plant is wonderful in shade or woodland gardens as the arching stems and beautiful foliage add great form and interest. And the foliage is wonderful to use in a vase from summer and through fall when it turns golden.
Solomon’s seal is a close relative to the Lily-of-the-Valley, and I love how each of these plants nods its flowers in the garden.
Solomon’s seal can be used as a groundcover especially in shady areas and on shady slopes.
This plant can be eaten like asparagus by boiling the young shoots for 10 minutes. Or cut up the whole shoot and put it in salads. If you boil the rootstocks, they can be eaten like potatoes. Word of warning, always be cautious about eating wild plants. The berries of this plant are poisonous.
Folklore and Tales
Native Americans and early colonists used the starchy roots as food to make breads and soups.
Solomon’s seal was also used for medicinal purposes. The rhizome was used as a sedative, and to treat gout, gastrointestinal issues and rheumatism as well as other anti-inflammatory ailments. It has a dozen or so medicinal uses, and is listed in the Handbook of Medicinal Herbs.
One explanation for the common name, Solomon’s seal, is that the roots have depressions that resemble the ancient Hebrew seal of King Solomon.
Do you have a favorite perennial shade plant? What is your favorite native shade plant?
In A Vase On Monday
I December, I cut many different and interesting dried plants and seedheads in hopes of using them in winter vases. I combined many different ones to make this arrangement in a bowl vase.
I loved how they looked silhouetted against the bright gray day outside. That is a Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) seedhead in the center picture. I saved several this year as I love their shape.
There is the wispy Goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus), black Baptisia australis seed pods, Miscanthus grass twisty and brown in the bottom picture. And nodding Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) mixing perfectly in the top picture. I placed the bowl in an old Japanese ceramic dish my Aunt Mary gave me years ago. I really love this dried vase combining so many wonderful elements found out in my winter garden now.
I am joining in with a few memes this week as I prepare this vase: [email protected]Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday, and [email protected]Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.
Next up on the blog:
Next Monday, I will have my kick-off post for the spring Seasonal Celebrations.
I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her blog, Rambling Woods. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Monday.
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