Flora Pittsburghensis.

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum pubescens)

Polygonatum pubescens Photographed May 5.

In current botany, these plants are placed in the family Asparagaceae.

Arching fronds of alternate leaves hide the dainty little bells: you have to lift the stem, or crouch on the ground, to see the flowers, as we see below.

Plant from above

But it is worth the extra effort to reveal the flowers. They are small and green, but beautifully shaped.

The flowers close up

More flowers

The plant is named for the six-pointed scars on the roots that look like a Star of David or Solomon’s Seal.

A closely related species, Polygonatum biflorum, is hard to distinguish, and indeed it is not distinguished by Gray at all in the seventh edition of his Manual. We take our description of P. pubescens from the eighth edition, “largely rewritten and expanded” after Gray’s death by Merrit Lyndon Fernald.


Perianth cylindrical, 6-lobed at the summit; the 6 stamens inserted on or above the middle of the tube, included, anthers introrse. Ovary 3-locular, with 2-6 ovules in each locule; style slender, deciduous by a joint; stigma obtuse or capitate, obscurely 3-lobed. Berry globular, black or blue; the locules 1-2-seeded. — Perennial herbs of N. Hemisph., with usually simple stems from a creeping knotted rhizome, naked below, above bearing nearly sessile or half-clasping nerved leaves, and axillary nodding greenish flowers; pedicels jointed near the flower. (Name from the Greek polys, many, and gonu, knee; alluding to the numerous joints of the rhizome.)

Leaves pilose or hirtellous on nerves beneath.

P. pubescens (Willd.) Pursh (hairy). — Rhizome whitish, 1-1.8 cm. thick, superficial; stem slender, glabrous, 0.2-1.1 m. high; leaves pilose or hirtellous beneath along the nerves, sessile or very short-petioled, lance-oblong to elliptic-oval, 4-14 cm. long, 1.5-7.5 cm. broad; peduncles 1 or 2 (-4)-flowered, glabrous, the lowest usually in the 1st or 2nd (rarely 3rd or 4th) axil; perianth slender, 7-13 mm. long; stamens inserted high on the perianth-tube. (P. biflorum, in part, of ed. 7, not Ell.) — Woods, wooded bluffs and about boulders in woods, s. Que. to s. Man., s. to N.S., N.E., ne. Md., Pa., upland to S.C., W.Va., Ky., Ind., Wisc, and la. May, June. — Forma fúltius Fern. & Harris (supported) is a sterile form with flowers subsessile or very short-pedicelled from axils of leafy branches, local, e. Mass.

Family Liliaceae (Lily Family) | Index of Families