Saturday, May 06, 2017

Solomon's Seal

I've been watching this spring for the two varieties of Solomon's Seal growing among extremely enthusiastic hostas along the south side of the Pioneer Barn on the museum campus. The starts came a few years ago via head gardener Kay Brown from the gardens of the late Marilyn Bridgford --- so like many items at the museum, these have associations with a specific person.

They're easy to overlook amid all that spring greenery, but one variety --- variegated (Polygonatum odoratum "Variegatum" I think, but of course could be wrong) --- is just about done blooming now; another variety will be along a little later.

These grow in tandem with the Lilies of the Valley just around the corner, a distant relative. There is a major difference, however. Every part of a Lily of the Valley is poisonous; nothing about Solomon's Seal is.

In fact, Solomon's Seal is widely credited for healing properties among folk medicine enthusiasts. One theoretical source of the name is its alleged ability to seal wounds and/or help heal broken bones.

Another theory about the name, however, holds that a mark like that of an ancient seal is left on the plant's rhizome when stems die down and break away in the fall. Take your pick --- or develop your own explanation.

Varieties are native worldwide and various parts of the plant --- from rhizomes to spring shoots --- apparently have been valued as a food source, too. Please don't try to eat those that we're trying to cultivate, however.

Whatever the case, this is another spring bloomer appreciated most, I suppose, by those with sharp eyes and sufficient curiosity to slow down a little and take a careful look at what's flourishing around them as we move into late spring.

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