Common name: false Solomon’s seal
Scientific name: Smilacina racemos
Plant family: Liliaceae
Description: False Solomon’s seal is a perennial, herbaceous plant with fleshy rhizomes. Its stems have an erect or usually arched form reaching 0.3-1 m. tall. The leaves are broad, have an elliptical shape, grow to be between 7-20 cm. long, alternate along the stem in 2 rows, and have visible parallel veins. The flowers are creamy white, extremely fragrant, small, numerous, and appear on very short stalks in egg or pyramid shaped clusters. The fruits are red, sometimes dotted with purple, fleshy, round and are between 5-7 mm across.
Habitat and range: False Solomon’s Seal is found in moist forests, stream banks, meadows, clearings, and is widespread at low to sub alpine elevations. False Solomon’s Seal ranges from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, is found in the Midwest, and south to Georgia and Missouri.
Historical and contemporary uses: False Solomon’s Seal is considered a good ornamental foliage plant in shady gardens, and is easy to transplant. It mixes well with other moderately drought-tolerant, shade-loving natives like rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), Cascade Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa), twisted stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius), and false lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum dilatatum).
Traditionally, the Gitksan boiled the roots into a tea as a strong medicine for rheumatism, sore backs, kidney trouble, and as a purgative. The Coast Salish mashed the roots into a poultice and bound them on cuts. The Kwakwaka’wakw would pick the berries and eat them.