Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This herbaceous plant is 1-2½' tall with an ascending leafy stem that is unbranched. The central stem is light to medium green, slightly zigzag, and glabrous to short-pubescent. Alternate leaves occur along this stem that are 2-5" long and 1-2½" long; they are broadly elliptic in shape, smooth (entire) along their margins, and sessile. The upper leaf surface is medium to dark green and glabrous, while the lower leaf surface is pale to medium green and finely short-hairy along the major veins (a 10x hand lens may be required to see this). Leaf venation is parallel with 3-7 prominent veins. Flowers are produced individually or in groups of 2-3 from the axils of most leaves; they are suspended below the leaves on short peduncles and pedicels. Each flower is 8-14 mm. in length and narrowly cylindrical in shape, consisting of 6 pale greenish yellow to greenish white tepals, 6 inserted stamens, and a 3-celled ovary with a single style. Around the outer rim of each flower, there are 6 straight to slightly recurved lobes about 2-3 mm. in length. The filaments of the stamens are minutely warty and terete. The peduncles and pedicels are light green, slender, and glabrous; they are about ¼-½" in length during the blooming period, but become about ½-1" in length when berries are produced. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring, lasting about 3 weeks. During the summer, the flowers are replaced by berries. At maturity, these berries are dark blue-violet to black, globoid in shape, and often glaucous; they are 6-9 mm. across. The interior of these berries is fleshy with several seeds. Individual seeds are 1.5-3.0 mm. long, globoid in shape, and either tan or straw-colored. The root system has knotty rhizomes up to ½" thick. Small clonal colonies are often produced from these rhizomes.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Hairy Solomon's Seal is rare in northern Illinois, while in the rest of the state it is absent (Distribution Map). It is state-listed as 'endangered.' Illinois lies along the southern range limit of this species (excluding mountainous areas in the Appalachians). Habitats include moist to mesic woodlands, sandy woodlands, and lower slopes of forested sand dunes near Lake Michigan. In Illinois, Hairy Solomon's Seal is found in higher quality natural areas.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Polygonatum pubescens fo. fultius Fernald & S.K. Harris:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Polygonatum pubescens (Willd.) Pursh:
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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N.B., N.S., Ont., Que.; Conn., Del., D.C., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Ky., Maine, Md., Mass., Mich., Minn., N.H., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Pa., R.I., Tenn., Vt., Va., W.Va., Wis.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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USA: CT , DE , GA , IL , IN , IA , KY , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , VT , VA , WV , WI (NPIN, 2007)

Canada: NB , NS , ON (NPIN, 2007)

USDA Native Status: L48(N), CAN(N) (NPIN, 2007)

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Rhizomes shallowly set, 1–1.8 cm thick. Stems erect, 5–9(–11) dm; sheathing bract cauline, papery, caducous. Leaves subsessile or short-petiolate, 4–15 × 2–5.5(–7.5) cm; blade elliptic-lanceolate to broadly ovate, glabrous adaxially, minutely hairy or pilose on abaxial veins; prominent veins 3–9. Inflorescences in most leaf axils except distalmost and proximal 2–4; peduncle sharply reflexed, axillary 1–3(–5)-flowered, to 2 cm in fruit. Flowers: perianth yellowish green, tube 10–13(–15) mm, distinct tips 2–3 mm; stamens inserted high in perianth tube; filaments densely warty; pedicel to 1.3 cm in fruit. Berries 6–9 mm. 2n = 20.
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Overall This is an erect to arching perennial. (UW, 2009)

Flowers are yellow, green, or brown. (NPIN, 2007) The flowers are white to yellowish and 6-parted. They are tubular-shaped and stalked, with petal-like tepals united. The inflorescence are small, stalked clusters hanging downward along the stem. (UW, 2009) Inflorescences are present in most leaf axils except the distalmost and proximal 2–4. The peduncle is sharply reflexed, and axillary is 1–5-flowered. In flowers the perianth is yellowish green. The tube and tips are distinct. Stamens are inserted high in the perianth tube. Filaments are densely warty. (FNA, 2003)

Fruit are green berries. (NPIN, 2007) Blue berries are the fruit of this plant. (UW, 2009)

Leaves There are rows of short hairs on the underside of the leaf veins. (Weatherbee, 2006) Leaves are simple. (NPIN, 2007) Leaves are short-stalked, oblong, and alternate. The smaller veins on the underside are hairy. (UW, 2009) Leaves are subsessile or short-petiolate. Blades are elliptic-lanceolate to broadly ovate, glabrous (hairless) adaxially, and minutely hairy or pilose on abaxial veins. There are 3-9 prominent veins. (FNA, 2003)

Stems are zigzagging. (UW, 2009) Stems are erect. The sheathing bracts are cauline, papery, and caducous. Rhizomes shallowly set. (FNA, 2003)

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Size

Plant is 20"-36" tall. (UW, 2009)

Flowers are 3/8"-1/2" long. (UW, 2009) The tube is 10–15 mm. The distinct tips of the tube are 2–3 mm. (FNA, 2003)

Fruit Inflorescence may be 2 cm in fruit. The pedicel may be up to 1.3 cm. Berries are 6–9 mm. (FNA, 2003)

Stems Rhizomes are 1–1.8 cm thick. Stems are 50–110 cm. (FNA, 2003)

Leaves are 4–15 × 2–7.5 cm. (FNA, 2003)

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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Convallaria pubescens Willdenow, Hort. Berol. 1: 45. 1803
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Look Alikes

Smilacina stellata (Starry False Solomon's Seal), Polygonatum biflorum (True Solomon's Seal) has dark blue berries in the leaf axils, and Smilacina trifolia (Three-leaved Solomon's Seal) has three leaves (and occasionally 2-4. (Weatherbee, 2006)
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

The native Hairy Solomon's Seal is rare in northern Illinois, while in the rest of the state it is absent (Distribution Map). It is state-listed as 'endangered.' Illinois lies along the southern range limit of this species (excluding mountainous areas in the Appalachians). Habitats include moist to mesic woodlands, sandy woodlands, and lower slopes of forested sand dunes near Lake Michigan. In Illinois, Hairy Solomon's Seal is found in higher quality natural areas.
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Rich moist wooded slopes and coves; 0--1100m.
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Native habitat is dry to moist woods. (NPIN, 2007) Habitat consists of shady, moist woods and thickets. (UW, 2009) This plant occurs in rich, moist wooded slopes and coves to 1100 m in elevation. (FNA, 2003)
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects and Birds of Small Solomon's Seal in Illinois

Polygonatum pubescens (Small Solomon's Seal)
(Hummingbirds suck nectar, while bees suck nectar or collect pollen; all observations are from Graenicher)

Birds
Trochilidae: Archilochus colubris sn

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus pensylvanica sn, Bombus vagans sn cp; Anthophoridae (Xylocopini): Xylocopa virginica sn

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Faunal Associations

The flowers attract the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, honeybees, bumblebees, and probably other bees. These floral visitors feed primarily on the nectar, although some of the bees also collect pollen for their larvae. A small number of insects feed destructively on the foliage and plant juices of Polygonatum spp. (Solomon's Seal species). These insects include the aphids Catamergus kickapoo and Macrosiphum gei, the thrips Ctenothrips bridwelli, and caterpillars of the moth Clepsis melaleucana (Black-Patched Clepsis). The berries are probably eaten by such woodland birds as the Ruffed Grouse, various thrushes, and the Veery. These birds spread the seeds to new areas. White-Tailed Deer occasionally graze on the foliage of Solomon's Seal species.
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This plant attracts birds and butterflies. (NPIN, 2007)
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering early--late spring.
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Bloom time is April-June. (NPIN, 2007) Blooming occurs May-July. (UW, 2009) Flowering occurs early to late spring. (FNA, 2003)
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Life Expectancy

This is a perennial. (NPIN, 2007)
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Genetics

2n = 20. (FNA, 2003)
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Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Polygonatum pubescens

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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This plant is listed by the U.S. federal government or a state. Common names are from state and federal lists. In Illinois Small Solomon's Seal is listed as Endangered. (USDA PLANTS, 2009)
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is partial sun to medium shade, moist conditions, and soil containing either loam or sandy loam with decaying organic matter. Most growth and development occurs during the cool weather of spring.
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Uses

EDIBLE PARTS / PREPARATION: Young shoots can be boiled for 10 minutes and served like asparagus. Whole shoots can be cut up and put into salads. The rootstocks can be added to stew or boiled for 20 minutes and eaten like potatoes. (NPIN, 2007) Native American uses include by women for spitting up blood, for "gas on the stomach," to wash the eyes for snowblindness, and to "get a fish on each hook, every cast." (UM, 2009)
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Risks

Risk Statement

POISONOUS PARTS: Berries are low toxicity if ingested. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. The Toxic Principle is Anthraquinone. (NPIN, 2007)
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