False Solomon's-Seal - Maianthemum racemosum

Family: (Asparagaceae) - Asparagus Family


"Smilacina racemosa is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.6 m (2ft).
It is hardy to zone 4. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.The plant is self-fertile." [PFAF]

Habitat / Range

"Moist to mesic forests, streambanks, meadows and clearings in the lowland and steppe to subalpine zones; common throughout BC south of 56degreeN, rare northward; N to AK, E to SK and S to SD, TX, NM, AZ and CA." [IFBC-E-flora]

The False Solomon Seal is found from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, south to Georgia, Missouri, and Arizona. [EWP]



At the shoot stage, these plants resemble the highly toxic false, or Indian hellebore (Veratrum viride), which could cause severe poisoning and death if eaten. [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Edible Uses

Young Leaves 

Raw or cooked[102]. The young shoots, as they emerge in spring, can be cooked and used as an asparagus substitute[55, 85, 102, 159, 183]. [PFAF] Fruits eaten

Young Shoots 

Harvested in spring. Cooked and eaten like asparagus, or cooked as a flavouring with meat. [Turner, Kuhnlein] Used as a potherb. [Harrington]


Other Uses


Plants can be grown as a ground cover when planted about 45cm apart each way[208]. [PFAF]

Medicinal Uses

False spikenard was widely employed by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints[257]. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. [PFAF]


A tea made from the roots is drunk to regulate menstrual disorders[213]. The root is analgesic, antirheumatic, appetizer, blood purifier, cathartic and tonic[257]. A decoction is said to be a very strong medicine, it is used for treating rheumatism and kidney problems and, when taken several times a day it has been used successfully in treating cancer and heart complaints[257]. The fumes from a burning root have been inhaled to treat headaches and general body pain[257]. The fumes have also been used to restore an unconscious patient and to bring an insane person back to normal[257]. The dried powdered root has been used in treating wounds[213]. A poultice of the root has been applied to the severed umbilical cord of a child in order to speed the healing process and is also used to treat cuts, swellings etc[257]. A cold infusion of the root is used as a wash for sore eyes[257]. [PFAF]


Half a cup of leaf tea drunk daily for a week by a woman is said to prevent conception[213, 257]. a poultice of the crushed fresh leaves is applied to bleeding cuts[257]. [PFAF] "Decoction of leaf used as a contraceptive." [Bocek, 1984]


is contraceptive and haemostatic[213, 257]. A decoction is used in the treatment of coughs and the spitting up of blood[257]. [PFAF]


"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. The seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking 18 months. Stored seed should be sown in a cold frame as soon as possible, it may take 2 years or longer to germinate. Grow the seedlings on in a shady part of a greenhouse for their first year without pricking them out, giving them liquid or foliar feeds as required to ensure that they do not become nutrient deficient. Divide the young plants up into individual pots in the autumn when they are dormant, and grow them on for at least another year in a shady part of the greenhouse. When the plants have reached a sufficient size, plant them out in the autumn whilst they are dormant. Division in spring or early autumn. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer." [PFAF]


"An easy plant to grow[233], it requires a deep fertile humus rich moisture retentive soil, neutral to slightly acid, that does not dry out in the growing season, and a shady position[200]. Requires a lime-free soil[233]. It does well in a woodland garden[200]. Hardy to about -20°c[200]. Plants take a few years to become established[208]. This species can be separated into two sub-species, S. racemosa racemosa being found in the east of the range whilst S. racemosa amplexicaule is found in the west[270]. One report says that the plant is apomictic (producing seeds without sexual fusion), though this needs to be investigated further[270]. The flowers have a gentle sweet perfume[245]." [PFAF]



  1. Bocek, 1984 - Ethnobotany of Costanoan Indians, California, Based on Collections by John P. Harrington, BARBARA. BOCEK, Economic Botany, 38(2), 1984, pp. 240-255
  2. [E-flora] Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2013. E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (eflora.bc.ca). Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
  3. [PFAF] Smilacina racemosa Plants For A Future, www.pfaf.org, U.K., Accessed May 10, 2014

Page last modified on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 9:33 PM