Maianthemum racemosum (treacleberry, false Solomon's seal, Solomon's plume or false spikenard; syn. Smilacina racemosa, Vagnera racemosa) is a species of flowering plant native to North America. It is a common, widespread plant known from every US state except Hawaii, and from every Canadian province and territory except Nunavut, as well as from Mexico.
It is a woodland herbaceous perennial plant growing to 50–90 cm tall, with alternate, oblong-lanceolate leaves 7–15 cm long and 3–6 cm broad. The flowers are produced on a 10–15 cm panicle, each flower with six white tepals 3–6 mm long blooming in late spring. The plants produce green fruits that are round and turn red in late summer.
Maianthemum racemosum grows in bicoastal habitats in North America up to elevations of 9,000 ft (2,743 m). The most robust and profuse occurrences of this plant are typically found in partial shade and deep, moist, soft soils. In the western part of North America an example typical habitat would be in a shaded ravine or riparian corridor with common understory associates of Dryopteris arguta, Trillium ovatum and Adiantum jordanii.
The plant, like the closely related Polygonatum (Solomon's seal), is suitable for cultivation in moist, humus-rich soil in a woodland setting or in dappled shade. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Uses and identification
The young shoots, while still tender and stripped of their leaves, can be simmered in water and eaten. Their delicate flavor is somewhat reminiscent of asparagus. However, they should not be collected for this purpose unless they are obviously abundant.
Although the young shoots are edible, the plant becomes too fibrous and bitter to enjoy after it completes flowering and seed setting stages. The Ojibwa Indians harvested the roots of this plant and cooked them in lye water overnight to remove the bitterness and neutralize their strong laxative qualities.
This plant should be consumed in moderation, as it can act as a strong laxative in sensitive individuals. A poultice made from the roots of this plant was used as an effective treatment for sunburns by American Indians. The roots of this plant were often dried and then smoked by several Eastern Native American tribes as a treatment for hyperactivity in children and emotional depression. The plant was also used by Native Americans as a cough suppressant.
When young, Maianthemum racemosum may closely resemble members of the genus Veratrum, a highly toxic plant to which it is distantly related. Consequently, this plant should not be consumed unless identification is positive.
M. r. subsp. amplexicaule, Olympic National Park
- M. stellatum, also known as false Solomon's seal
- Polygonatum biflorum, Solomon's seal
- Polygonatum commutatum, Solomon's seal
- The Plant List
- "Solomon's-plume (False Solomon's-seal)". Connecticut Botanical Society.
- "Maianthemum racemosum". Flora of North America.
- C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Coastal Woodfern (Dryopteris arguta), GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Maianthemum racemosum". Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- Gregory L. Tilford, Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, ISBN 0-87842-359-1