This herbaceous plant is 1-2½' tall with an ascending leafy stem that
is unbranched. The central stem is light to medium green, slightly
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Range & Habitat:
The native Hairy Solomon's Seal
is rare in
northern Illinois, while in the rest of the state it is absent
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
The flowers attract the Ruby-Throated
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
species). These insects include the aphids Catamergus kickapoo
the thrips Ctenothrips
, and caterpillars of
the moth Clepsis
(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
A moist sandy woodland at the
State Park in NW Indiana.
This species can be easily confused with the more common
(Smooth Solomon's Seal). Hairy
tends to be a smaller plant that produces fewer flowers and berries
underneath its leaves (usually only 1-2 flowers or berries per leaf).
It also has a tendency to bloom a little earlier in the year than the
latter plant. However, the most distinctive characteristics of Hairy
Solomon's Seal are 1) the short fine hairs along the veins of its leaf
undersides, and 2) the warty filaments of its flowers.