Solomon’s Plume, an Underused Woodland Native
Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum) has a lot in common with Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum). In fact, Solomon’s Plume more often went by the common name False Solomon’s Seal. Canny native plant sellers saw correctly that this undermined the woodlander’s appeal, and so they promoted an alternative. Either way, my point is that you are much less likely to find Solomon’s Plume in home gardens than Solomon’s Seal.
Both are woodland plants grown mostly for their foliage. In May, Solomon’s Plume has feathery flower clusters growing at the end of its 2-3′ arching stems. The flowers give way to red berries in the fall. Solomon’s Seal has flowers dangling all along the stem, followed by berries that turn black when ripe.
In my experience, Solomon’s Plume spreads slowly, while Solomon’s Seal can be highly aggressive. I have a modest patch of Solomon’s Plume in the back garden located at the foot of a Silver Maple, and a rapidly growing patch of Solomon’s Seal growing on the east side of the house.
Once the berries are ripe, I do have trouble keeping the stems of Solomon’s Plume from flopping. I’ve employed a variety of strategies with mixed success. Solomon’s Seal, though taller, seems more reliably upright.
The flowers of Solomon’s Plume attract small bees and beetles, both of whom serve as pollinators. The berries, though toxic to people, are eaten by woodland birds.
Have you ever tried growing Solomon’s Plume?