False Solomon’s Seal (False Spikenard)

Maianthemum racemosum (formerly Smilacena racemosa)

Liliaceae (lilies)


Herbaceous perennial growing from rhizomes. Stalk is arching, usually unbranched, and slightly zigzags between the leaf nodes. Flowers in a plumelike cluster of minute florets arising from the tips of the plant stalks, fragrant, creamy white. Blooms May–June. Leaves alternate, spreading horizontally in 2 ranks, broadly elliptical, similar to those of true Solomon's seal (Polygonatum biflorum) but with fewer veins. Fruit red berries, often with purple dots. Root a long, creeping rhizome.

Similar species: Although the foliage is quite similar, the flower arrangement of the true and the false Solomon’s seals is so different that identification presents no problem. Also, the fruits of true Solomon's seal are dark blue at maturity, not red.


Stem length: 2–3 feet.

Habitat and conservation

Common statewide in rich soils of bottomland and upland forests.

image of False Solomon’s Seal False Spikenard distribution map
Distribution in Missouri



Using new technology, botanists are using molecular (DNA) characteristics to provide new insights into the relationships among plant groups, and recently they've been dividing several large plant families into new, smaller, separate families. False Solomon's seal, in the newer classification system, is being placed in the Asparagaceae, the asparagus family, or the Ruscaceae, the butcher's broom family. The plants of these new families are all former members of the Liliaceae (lily family).

Human connections

The roots have been used medicinally, and young shoots cooked and eaten like asparagus. This species is also a popular native plant for landscaping in partially shady locations, as it offers pretty sprays of flowers, bright berries, and interesting foliage, which turns yellow in fall.

Ecosystem connections

Various bees, flies, and beetles are attracted to the flowers. Fruit-eating birds, as well as rodents, eat the berries and thereby spread the seed to new areas. Deer and other herbivores browse the foliage.