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.
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.
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.