Flowers - Hairy, or True, or Twin-flowered Solomon's Seal
( Originally Published 1916 )
(Polygonatum biflorum) Lily-of-the-Valley family
Flowers—Whitish or yellowish green, tubular, bellshaped, t to 4, but usually 2, drooping on slender peduncles from leaf axils. Perianth 6-lobed at entrance, but not spreading; 6 stamens, the filaments roughened; t pistil. Stem : Simple, slender, arching, leafy, 8 in. to 3 ft. long. Leaves : Oval, pointed, or lance-shaped, alternate, 2 to 4 in. long, seated on stem, pale beneath and softly hairy along veins. Rootstock : Thick, horizontal, jointed, scarred. (Polygonatum = many joints). Fruit: A blue-black berry.
Preferred Habitat—Woods, thickets, shady banks.
Distribution—New Brunswick to Florida, westward to Michigan.
From a many-jointed, thick rootstock a single graceful curved stem arises each spring, withers after fruiting, and leaves a round scar, whose outlines suggested to the fanciful man who named the genus the seal of Isiael's wise king. Thus one may know the age of a root by its seals, as one tells that of a tree by the rings in its trunk.
The dingy little cylindric flowers, hidden beneath the leaves, may be either self-pollenized or cross-pollenized by the bumble-bees to which they are adapted. " We may suppose," says Professor Robertson, "that the pendulous position of the flowers owes its origin to the fact that it renders them less convenient to other insects, but equally convenient to the higher bees which are the most efficient pollinators ; and that the resulting protection to pollen and nectar is merely an incidental effect." Certain Lepidoptera, and small insects which crawl into the cylinder, visit all the Solomon's seals.
The Smooth Solomon's Seal (P. commutatum or P. giganteum of Gray), with much the same range as its smaller relative, grows in moist woods and along shaded streams. It is a variable, capricious plant, with a stout or slender stem, perhaps only one foot high, or again towering above the tallest man's head ; the oval leaves also vary greatly in breadth and length; and a solitary flower may droop from an axil, or perhaps eight dingy greenish cylinders may hang in a cluster. But the plant is always smooth throughout. Even the incurved filaments which obstruct the en-trance to this flower are smooth where those of the preceding species are rough-hairy. The style is so short that it may never come in contact with the anthers, although the winged visitors must often leave pollen of the same flower on the stigma.