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Angular Solomon's Seal

Polygonatum odoratum

  • Name also: Scented Solomon’s-seal
  • Family: Asparagus Family – Asparagaceae
    (formerly Lily of the Valley Family – Convallariaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock sturdy, branched.
  • Height: 20–40 cm (8–16 in.). Stem unbranched, usually arching, bristly, grooved, lower part reddish.
  • Flower: Perianth campanulate–tubular, white–greenish, 12–25 mm (0.48–1 in.) long, fused, 6-lobed, not constricted in centre (not narrower like Solomon’s seal). Stamens 6. Gynoecium composed of 3 fused carpels. Flowers axillary in groups of 1(–2), nodding, quite long-stalked, vanilla fragrance.
  • Leaves: Alternate in two rows, stalkless. Blade narrowly ovate–lanceolate, with entire margins, parallel-veined, not crinkled, underside bluish green. Base sheathed.
  • Fruit: Bluish black, wax-covered, 8–12 mm (0.32–0.48 in.) wide berry.
  • Habitat: Rocky outcrops, stony hills, esker woods, broad-leaved forests, deciduous forest, rich swamps.
  • Flowering time: (May–)June.
  • Endangerment: Protected in the provinces of Oulu and Lapland.

Angular Solomon’s seal thrives in very different habitats, from dry rocky precipices to rich broad-leaved forests. In Finland it is only common in the south, becoming rarer in southern Häme and Savo. Angular Solomon’s seal’s close relative Solomon’s seal (P. multiflorum) can grow up to double the size of its close relative but only in the most southern parts of Finland. The species can sometimes be difficult to tell apart because angular Solomon’s seal that is growing in a good place can look almost exactly the same as Solomon’s seal that is growing I a bad place. The species can be identified however by taking a close look at the stem: angular Solomon’s seal’s is bristly and grooved while Solomon’s seal’s is glossy and round. Angular Solomon’s seal’s white flowers are axillary, usually solitary and in pairs on the lower part of the stem, and Solomon’s seal’s are in pairs or small groups.

On average only every fourth angular Solomon’s seal shoot flowers, and the berry crop is usually quite scant. The blackish berries can look tempting, but they contain poisonous alkaloids and saponins. At least one person in Finland has died from eating the berries. The rootstock is however not toxic and was sometimes used in the old days as food. In years of crop failure angular Solomon’s seal was milled to stretch out flower, and it was regarded as one of the country’s best emergency foods.

When all the shoots from angular Solomon’s seal’s rootstock have withered in the autumn it is left with a big, round, raised scar. Many people see a seal here, and in many languages the name refers to Solomon’s seal. According to legend King Solomon used the magical powers of the root of the plant to turn large boulders into suitable building material for his temple. The leaf scars have also given the plant its scientific name: the Greek word polys means many, and gony means generations.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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