A Giant Among Plants: Grow ‘Solomon’s Seal’ as a Native Medicinal

| 3/23/2020 10:03:00 AM

This article is republished with permissions from the January 2020 issue of Washington Gardener, a publication covering Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area gardens.

If you’ve read any of my past diatribes, you know that I favor scientific, botanical nomenclature above “common names”. That’s caused many of my readers to come to think of me as a know-it-all. Not the case! But, I’m going to save the plant name discussion for a later date. I just want to inform you that I have no problem with common names, although sometimes they don’t tell you anything about the plant or don’t seem to make any sense.

Well, here’s a definite exception to that rule: Polygonatum canaliculatum, otherwise known as ‘Giant Solomon’s Seal’, a remarkable plant that’s native to every state in the U.S. aside from eight Western states. This plant is a giant in more ways than its size.

Comparing Varieties of ‘Solomon’s Seal’

If you’re not familiar with this plant, I’ll bet you know its “little” cousin, Polygonatum biflorum, the ‘True Solomon’s Seal’, native to the same geographic area. That common name distinguishes it from Maianthemum racemosum, formerly Smilacina racemosa, or the ‘False Solomon’s Seal’. I’m not fond of that common name — if you have to use a common name, try ‘Solomon’s Plume’.

Polygonatum is a genus of plants that has a hard time with familiar relationships. I always knew it as a member of the Liliaceae (lily) family; now, depending on who you’re talking to, it could be in the Convallariaceae or Asparagaceae family.

3/26/2020 12:39:32 PM

I love my Polygonatum biflorum for it's rich, green and white display,and for it's height. Mine grows 48" tall, in a shady north location, except for July and August, when the sun hits it. It may surprise you to know that my beautiful display is in southern Alberta, Canada. I would welcome information on when I should cut the yellowing fronds off.

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