Polygonatum biflorum (Walt.) Ell.

King Solomon's-seal

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

King Solomon's-seal was formerly divided into two species, one being somewhat larger and more robust. Whether this division should stand is not resolved. The Cherokee ate the roots or ground them to make bread. They also cooked and ate the stems and leaves.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), forest edges, forests, meadows and fields, woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
Leaf arrangement
alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
Leaf blade shape
  • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
  • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
Leaf blade length
50–250 mm
Flower petal color
  • green to brown
  • white
  • yellow
Flower petal length
13–22 mm
Petal fusion
the perianth parts are fused to form a tube, cup, or bell shape
Inflorescence type
  • the flowers grow out of the axil (point where a branch or leaf is attached to the main stem)
  • the inflorescence is a raceme (a long unbranched stem with stalked flowers growing along it)
Ovary position
the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
Fruit type (specific)
the fruit is a berry (fleshy, with the wall enclosing one or more sections, with two or more seeds)
Fruit length
8–12 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Clonal plantlets
    Axillary bulblets
    there are no bulblets being produced in axils
  • Flowers
    Anther attachment
    the anther is attached by its base to the filament
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused (the number of carpels equals the number of locules)
    Filament surface
    the filament surface has no hairs or scales on it
    Flower number
    2–15
    Flower orientation
    the flowers curve or droop downwards
    Flower petal color
    • green to brown
    • white
    • yellow
    Flower petal length
    13–22 mm
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Form of style
    • the style is knob-like at the tip, and unbranched
    • the style is lobed at the tip, and unbranched
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are not fringed
    Hairs on flower stalk
    the flower stalk has no hairs on it
    Inflorescence type
    • the flowers grow out of the axil (point where a branch or leaf is attached to the main stem)
    • the inflorescence is a raceme (a long unbranched stem with stalked flowers growing along it)
    Length of flower stalk
    10–40 mm
    Length of peduncle
    60–90 mm
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Nectar spur
    the flower has no nectar spurs
    Number of carpels
    3
    Number of sepals and/or petals
    there are six petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are fused to form a tube, cup, or bell shape
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble petals in color and texture
    Sepal length
    4–6.5 mm
    Sepal orientation
    the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the plant
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are fused to each other (often along with the petals in monocots), at least near their bases
    Spathe
    the plant does not have a spathe
    Spathe form
    NA
    Spathe length
    0 mm
    Stamen number
    6
    Stamen position relative to petals
    NA
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
    Stamens fused outwards
    the stamens are fused to the petals or tepals at or near their bases
    Style petal-like
    the style is not broad and flattened like a petal
    Tepals
    the petals and sepals are similar in size and color
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    • blue
    • other
    Capsule ridges
    NA
    Fruit compartments
    there are three locules in the fruit
    Fruit cross-section
    the fruit is round in cross-section
    Fruit length
    8–12 mm
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is fleshy
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a berry (fleshy, with the wall enclosing one or more sections, with two or more seeds)
    Fruit width
    8–12 mm
    Other markings on berry
    the ripe fruits are mostly one color without spots or streaks
  • Glands or sap
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Root septa
    the roots do not have transverse septa
    Underground organs
    • the plant has a rhizome (a horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
    • there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    alternate: there is one leaf per node along the stem
    Leaf blade basal lobes
    the leaf blades do not have basal lobes
    Leaf blade base
    • the leaf blade clasps the stem at the base, or the leaf blade goes all the way around the stem, so that the stem appears to pierce the leaf blade
    • the leaf has no stalk
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf blade has a noticeable waxy or powdery bloom
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section
    Leaf blade faces
    both surfaces of the leaf blade are exposed
    Leaf blade form
    Fully-formed (i.e., expanded), +/- green leaf blades are found somewhere on the plant
    Leaf blade length
    50–250 mm
    Leaf blade shape
    • the leaf blade is elliptic (widest near the middle and tapering at both ends)
    • the leaf blade is lanceolate (lance-shaped; widest below the middle and tapering at both ends)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade veins
    the lateral veins are parallel or slightly arched in the direction of the tip
    Leaf blade width
    30–130 mm
    Leaf stalk length
    0 mm
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (i.e., lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Leaflet number
    0
    Stipule twining
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on this plant
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • edges of forests
    • forests
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • woodlands
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the leaves have no particular smell
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Flowering stem growth form
    the flowering stem is held upright
    Flowering stem leaves
    there is at least one fully-formed leaf on the flowering stem

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Vermont
extremely rare (S-rank: S1)

var. commutatum

Massachusetts
uncommon (uncertain) (S-rank: S3?)
New Hampshire
unrankable (S-rank: SU), Ind (code: Ind)

Native to North America?

Yes and no (some introduced)

Sometimes Confused With

Polygonatum pubescens:
leaves hairy on veins of undersurface and tepal lobes 2-3 mm long (vs. P. biflorum, with leaves without hairs and tepal lobes 4-6.5 mm long).

Synonyms

  • Convallaria biflora Walt, in part
  • Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum (J.A. & J.H. Schultes) Morong
  • Polygonatum commutatum (J.A. & J.H. Schultes) A. Dietr.

Family

Ruscaceae

Genus

Polygonatum

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Polygonatum biflorum (Walt.) Ell. N

King Solomon’s-seal. Convallaria biflora Walt., pro parte; Polygonatum biflorum (Walt.) Ell. var. commutatum (J.A. & J.H. Schultes) Morong; P. commutatum (J.A. & J.H. Schultes) A. Dietr. • CT, MA, ME, NH, VT. Rich, dry-mesic to mesic, upland forests and woodlands, riparian forests, embankments, fields, roadsides. Though native, this species is also commonly planted 
in New England (generally it is robust forms that are cultivated). Polygonatum biflorum is sometimes treated as being comprised of two species—a diploid ( P. biflorum) and a tetraploid ( P. commutatum). Though the tetraploid is usually larger (rhizomes 15–30 mm thick, stems 5–13 mm thick at the lowest leaves, peduncles 2- to 10-flowered, tepals 17–20 mm long) compared with the diploid (rhizomes 6–15 mm thick, stems 1.5–5 mm thick at the lowest leaves, peduncles 2- or 3 (–5)-flowered, tepals 10–17 mm long), some diploids have been collected that are fully as large as any tetraploid. This has led some authors to treat the entire complex as a single, variable species (which is followed here until more detailed studies are performed). That stated, local ecological differences have been observed between diploids and tetraploids, lending support to the hypothesis that plants with different ploidy levels may represent real taxa that deserve recognition at some level. This species was reported from 
 RI by Kartesz (1999), based on George (1992); however, George (1999) stated this species is not naturalized in RI.