Slim False Solomon’s Seal

Slim False Solomon’s Seal © DSchiel

Starry False Lily of the Valley
Maianthemum stellatum
NATIVE

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

    • Monocotyledon
      • Monocots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Butcher’s Broom Family (Ruscaceae)
    • Perennial herb
      • Grows from rhizomes (underground, horizontal stems); often forms colonies
    • Stems unbranched, erect or arching, zig-zagging near the tip
    • Leaves
      • Alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
      • Lance-shaped to elliptic, with smooth edges (entire)
      • Prominent parallel veins
      • Clasping the stem (sessile)
    • Flowers
      • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a raceme (unbranched stem with stalked flowers opening from the bottom up), growing from the plant’s tip, of 5-15 white, widely-spaced, star-shaped flowers
      • Each radially-symmetrical flower has 3 petals and 3 sepals (outer flower parts), in 2 separate whorls, similar in appearance and collectively called tepals
        • 6 stamens (male flower parts) are slightly shorter than the tepals
        • Ovary superior (attached above other flower parts)
    • Fruit is a berry (a usually multi-seeded fruit with a fleshy ovary wall), red-striped while maturing, red-purple to black at maturity
    • Height to 28 in.

    Distribution

      • Native to California
        • Grows in moist woodlands and along stream banks
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Outside California, grows across much of North America, from Alaska to California in the west and from Newfoundland to the central Appalachian Mountains in the east
      • Grows at elevations to 7,800 ft.

      Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Flowers pollinated by bees, flies, and beetles
        • Fruit eaten by numerous bird species, as well as small rodents
        • Native people ate the fruit
        • CAUTION – berries are edible, but large quantities have a laxative effect

        Name Derivation

          • Maianthemum (my-AN-the-mum) – from the Greek for “May flower,” referring to its blooming season
          • stellatum (stel-LAY-tum) – from the Latin stella, “star,” referring to the flower shape
          • Slim false Solomon’s seal
            • False Solomon’s seal – derives from the similarity of the leaves to the “true” Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum species; see below)
            • Slim – due to the simplicity of the flowers in the inflorescence and/or to the leaves, which are narrower than those of fat false Solomon’s seal (M. racemosum)
          Flower of Slim False Solomon’s Seal © DSchiel
          Flower of Fat False Solomon’s Seal © DSchiel

          Notes

            • Geophytes, e.g. plants growing from bulbs, corms, and rhizomes, are adapted to survive fire, our Mediterranean climate’s long, dry summers, and extended droughts
              • Above-ground growth dies back after flowering, while underground the plant survives with stored water and nutrients
            • Slim false Solomon’s seal has seen several changes in taxonomy
              • Previously listed in Lily family
              • Genus name changed from Smilacina to Maianthemum
            • “True” Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum species) does not grow natively in the Western states
              • Bell-like flowers hang in clusters from the leaf stalk
              • Berries are poisonous
              • Common name usually explained as referring to the large, circular seals (leaf stalk scars) on the rhizomes (Missouri)

            ID Tips

              Slim False Solomon’s SealFat False Solomon’s Seal
              Leavesnarrow (slim)wide (fat)
              Inflorescenceraceme¹

              5-15 flowers, widely spaced
              panicle²

               > 20 flowers, densely packed
              Individual Flowers
                     Appearancestarlikefluffy
                     Tepalsconspicuousinconspicuous
                     Stamensshorter than tepals

              less stout
              longer than tepals

              more stout
                     Fragrancenoyes
              Fruitred-striped to redred-speckled to red
              ¹ Raceme – unbranched stem with stalked flowers opening from the bottom up
              ² Panicle – branching stem with flowers opening from the bottom up

              At Edgewood

                • Found in woodlands
                  • Found on the Sylvan trail, often side by side with fat false Solomon’s seal, in an area known as “Rose Alley” just beyond the waterfall
                  • See iNaturalist for observations of this plant
                • Flowers February – March

                See General References

                Specific References

                  Habeck, R.J. 2020. Maianthemum stellatum. Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.

                    Laws, J.M. 2019. Sierra Wildflowers: A Hiker’s Guide. Heyday Press, Berkeley, California.

                      Missouri Botanical Garden. Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum ‘Variegatum’.