False Solomon’s Seal – Smilacina Racemosa: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Butterscotch of Wild Plants

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In Chippewa, agong’osiminun, false Solomon’s seal is known by multiple Latin names: smilacina racemosa, maianthemum racemosum, and vagnera racemosa. If you’ve seen a plant with a massive cluster of speckled pink and red berries hanging from it along the border of your woods, this edible and medicinal plant is likely the one.

Around Haliburton we have a few kinds of false Solomon’s seal. It was one of the first plants I noticed after moving here, likely the very first I identified. The title sort is common. Also you might also find three-leaved (smilacina trifolia syn. maianthemum trifolium) and, on rare occasion, starry (smilacina setllata syn. maianthemum stellatum). These two look more akin to lily of the valley.

False Solomon’s-seal - Smilacina Racemosa
False Solomon’s-seal – Smilacina Racemosa

Edible Uses of False Solomon’s Seal

If you have an abundance of false Solomon’s seal – the young greens and shots can be boiled and eaten, but they get fibrous and bitter with age.

The fleshy rhizomes can be eaten, but they also have an unpalatable bitter taste.

Berries of False Solomon’s-seal - Smilacina Racemosa
Berries of False Solomon’s-seal – Smilacina Racemosa

And while I hate to sound repetitive, the ripe red fruits are edible but apparently some folks don’t find them very palatable either. I think they taste like butterscotch and I like how they are not too sweet. If I could improve upon the berries, I’d just wish them fleshier. I don’t think a year will go by that I don’t nibble on them. If you have an abundance why not try it? They could be trail nibble or used for jams, jellies, etc. Plant the seeds while you’re at it. 🙂 They are a valuable food source for wildlife, which is why I began with the abundance comment and then tripled down on it. (Which goes for any plant you’d like to use, with the exception of invasive plants – feel free to utterly destroy those on your plate or otherwise.) Starry false-Solomon’s-seal reportedly has the highest vitamin C content, but it’s rare in our area and we have plenty of aplenty vitamin C sources: most edible berries, conifer tips, etc.

False Solomon’s-seal has more than one toxic look-a-like. Be careful with ID-ing and not taking for granted that a patch is entirely one type of plant. Nearby, in the bush, I found a swath of both a “Solomon’s-seal” and false Solomon’s-seal. This is probably hairy Solomon’s seal (polygonatum pubescens), also listed in Haliburton Flora. You can see the leaves are similar, and the berries not so much. It reminds me of a true story about a poisonous mushroom hiding amongst a motherlode of yummy edible ones, instantly killing an experienced forager. While these distant relations have similarities, especially medicinally, Solomon’s-seal can be very toxic, the blue berries in particular. Distinguishing the other two species from lily-of-the-valley may be even harder!

Mix of both Solomon's-seals
Mix of both “Solomon’s-seals”

Medicinal Uses of False Solomon’s Seal

False Solomon’s-seal is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Muscular
  • Respiratory
  • Skeletal

Medicinal tags include Anti-Inflammatory, Astringent, and Demulcent. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes a roots and/or rhizome decoction for back pain and similar injuries; emphasis on pain in tendons and ligaments. It’s often combined with other plants for various ailments like headaches and sore throats. True Solomon’s seal is more popular medicinally for almost mirrored usage. If you’re prone to sports injuries like sprained ankles, these are plants to know.

Alternative Uses of Solomon’s Plume

Many species of pollinators including various beetles are attracted to this plant so it’s a great add for biodiversity on your property. Beetles need some love too! So consider…

Growing Smilacina Racemosa

These enjoy partial shade and fertile loamy soil. They are relatively easy to find along our tree lined dirt roads and forest edges. Gathering the seeds to plant may be difficult because the wildlife love the berries (including Gerry the grouse!) Thankfully, you can plant the rhizome, and you can likely find the rhizomes at native plant nurseries like this one in Omemee. And do check them out. They have bundles specifically available for shorelines, sunny dry spots, woodland and pollinators. Here’s our native plant nurseries reference page to for further searching.


There are poisonous look-a-likes.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts (Native American)

The Earthwise Herbal, Volume II: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants

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2 thoughts on “False Solomon’s Seal – Smilacina Racemosa: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Butterscotch of Wild Plants”

  1. John Charles Fremont says in his journal of his expedition to Oregon, 1849, that convollaria stellata is the most useful herb among the natives for healing wounds. This was backed up by the experience of mountaineer Joseph Walker, that it is the best remedy known among the natives.


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