Star false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum stellatum) is a native perennial that spreads via rhizomes. The single, unbranched stems are topped by a raceme of up to ten flowers. Each flower is attached to the main stem of the inflorescence and the flowers mature from the bottom up. The flowers have six white tepals, six white stamens with pale yellow anthers, and a superior ovary with a single style. The stamens are shorter than the tepals.
The alternate leaves of star false Solomon’s seal are lance-shaped, heavily veined and taper to a point. The leaves are sessile (no stalk) and clasp the stem.
Star false Solomon’s seal fruits are edible, round berries that can be eaten raw or cooked. The berries are green with purple stripes and mature to a deep red-purple.
All other parts of star false Solomon’s seal are also edible. The very young shoots can be used as an asparagus substitute in the spring. Leaves and older shoots, when cooked, are eaten as a green. After being soaked in alkaline water to remove bitterness and cooked, the roots resemble potatoes. The young shoots resemble the shoots of other poisonous plants. So care must be taken in eating the young star false Solomon’s seal shoots.
This member of the Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae) was used for a variety of medicinal purposes. The roots are antiseptic, check bleeding and are pain relieving making them useful in treating wounds. Native peoples employed teas and poultices made from the leaves for rheumatism, colds, menstrual disorders and as a contraceptive, among other uses.
Star false Solomon’s seal can be found below 8,000 feet throughout all of North America except the Gulf States, Georgia and the Carolinas. Its ecology is rocky but moist soil along streams, open forests and subalpine meadows.
Starry, small and little false Solomon’s seal are three other common names for M stellatum. A synonym is Smilacina stellata. The genus designation comes from the Greek “Maros/May” and “anthemon/blossom” and refers to the flowering season. In Latin the species name means “star-like”.
These star false Solomon’s seal plants were photographed in May along the No Name Trail at Oregon Caves National Monument (Oregon).
False Solomon’s seal closely resembles star false Solomon’s seal. See my previous post False Solomon’s Seal 07-27-18.