Featured Plant: Solomon’s Plume

AKA: Feathery False Lily of the Valley, False Spikenard, False Solomon’s Seal
(Smilacina racemosa – also Maianthemum racemosa)

Smilacina racemosa colony – photo by Neil Diboll

If you’re looking for a great plant for lightly shaded areas of your garden Solomon’s Plume is a beautiful choice for home landscaping in shaded settings, and a good food source for birds. It spreads by rhizomes but not aggressively enough to ever be invasive. Multiple arching stems 1-3′ long grow from a single parent plant, making it a good option for a taller ground cover.

The unbranched stems bear a many-flowered raceme at the tip of the stem (the plume) made up of tiny white flowers. The plumes appear in late spring and are followed by bright red berries, sometimes speckled brown or purple, which last through late Summer and into the Fall. Birds will be attracted to the berries.

Solomon’s Plume – photo by Walter Siegmund (wikimeda commons)

Solomon’s Plume is widely-distributed and native to Eastern North America. Found growing most often in deciduous woods, on shaded banks and ditches, Solomon’s Plume should be grown in well-drained, medium to moist, slightly acidic soil – in light to medium shade.

Solomon’s Plume – At home in the woods. (wikipedia – photo: jaknouse)

Solomon’s Plume seed – photo by Mary Evans

Dry to Medium Soil Alternative
Jason, at gardeninacity.wordpress.com, reminded me that a dry soil alternative to Smilacina racemosa is Smilacina stellata, Starry Solomon’s Plume. It’s a bit shorter than Solomon’s Plume at 1-2′, and is very tough – thriving in dry, sandy soil in the shade. It also spreads slowly by rhizome and is excellent for stabilizing around/under oaks and pines.

starry solomon's plume - smilacina stellata

Starry Solomon’s Plume has cool berries – mid summer. This photo was taken in early August along a bike path near Crystal Lake in Michigan.

Starry Solomon’s Plume – smilacina stellata flowers from May – June. Great in dry soil, under the trees! Photo was taken at Prairie Nursery in late May.

5 Comments

  1. Jill Miller

    Maianthemum racemosa weathers droughts quite well here in sandy eastern Massachusetts. It does require a good forest duff soil to do so, but certainly not what I’d call ‘moist’, at least not year round.

  2. Jason

    This is a great plant. A related plant that does great for me in dryer or difficult sites is Starry Solomon Seal (S. stellata). Shorter, with interesting striped berries.

    1. mary (Post author)

      Thanks Jason, I might post additional info about the Starry Solomon’s Plume… I have some pics of the cool striped berries.
      -mary

  3. Lloyd Borer

    This great plant is also a very popular salad plant to groundhogs, and no doubt other small munchers. In order to allow at least some plants to bear seed, I fenced off a few small areas with chicken wire…

    1. mary (Post author)

      yes! it is popular with the small mammals. Deer, too, are attracted to it.

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