Solomon’s Seal

Solomon’s Seal by Lisa Densmore

Location: Yellowstone National Park, WY

For Christmas I gave my sweetheart a set of all four Indiana Jones movies. We watched the first one last night in which Indy found the Arc of the Covenant, the Holy Arc that held the 10 Commandments. In the movie, the last known location of the arc prior to Indiana figuring out it’s desert resting place was King Solomon’s temple in ancient Jerusalem. In the midst of the holidays and with the movie’s reference to King Solomon, I thought of a plant that combines a little of both, Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum commutatum). The plant and the ancient Hebrew king share the same name, and the plant’s scarlet berries seem Christmas-like, though I found the one in this picture on Labor Day while backpacking in Yellowstone National Park.

Smooth Soloman's Seal

Perhaps Solomon’s Seal is more closely related to Easter, as it is in the lily family. This woodland perennial grows two to three feet tall. Its elongated four to six-inch leaves grow to either side of a single stem, which often bends in a graceful arch as it gets longer. Its small white or pale yellow flowers hang below each leaf. The flowers last about three weeks in the late spring, then give way to berries that turn from green to red (shown in the first photo) and finally to a blue-purple.

Starry False Solomon's Seal © Gerald & Buff Corsi, Focus on Nature, Inc.

Like other lilies, Solomon’s Seal forms colonies, spreading from its rhizomes as well as from its seeds. It thrives in light shade and fertile, loamy soil. Though its flowers aren’t particularly showy, bumblebees and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are attracted to them for their nectar. Whitetail deer gladly browse the foliage, and various upland birds and grizzly bears eat the berries. But you would be wise like King Solomon to munch on nearby huckleberries, raspberries or thimbleberries, as Solomon’s Seal berries are poisonous to people.

Lisa Densmore

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4 Responses to “Solomon’s Seal”

  1. Mary Harris says:

    Lovely article, and a gorgeous plant! However, it is the Ark of the Covenant, not the Arc of the Covenant. Arks and arcs and arches are tricky, I know.

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  3. Jim Ashton says:

    The plant with the red berries is not Solomon’s seal, but rather Streptopus amplexifolius, common names: twisted stalk, claspleaf twistedstalk, white mandarin. http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=STAM2

  4. Brian Tremback says:

    I came across your page when searching for images of a plant I saw in Ontario. The first image – the one with the red berries – is the one I saw, but it’s not a Polygonatum, which is also what I first thought. It’s a Streptopus lanceolatus, Rose Twisted Stalk. The characteristics that distinguish it from the Polygonatum are: 1) red berries (Polygonatum has dark blue berries), 2) one flower (and berry) per leaf axil (Polygonatum has two), 3) zig-zag stalk (Polygonatum is straight), 4) stalk is often branching (Polygonatum is always unbranched)

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