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Smilacina stellata (Starry False Solomon’s Seal) Asparagaceae
The starry false solomon’s seal is a perennial plant native to the Chicago region. Commonly mistaken for the false solomon seal, the plant’s distinguishing characteristics are its thin leaves and arching stem. The plant belongs to the Liliaceae, or more specifically, the Asparagaceae family.
Smilacina stellata has a blooming period of three weeks in late Spring and can usually grow up to one and a half feet tall. Starry false solomon seal is usually cultivated in moist or sandy soil and flourishes in areas partly shaded or sunny.
Starry false solomon’s seal is native to Illinois and has a variation to the places it can grow. The plant flourishes in:
- Sandy Black Oak Savannas
- Shrub zones
- Calcareous spring places
- Woodlands & edges of woodlands
Leaves: The leaves of the false starry solomon’s seal are ovate, long, and thin, ranging from 8-10 inches in length. The leaves are alternate and entire with parallel veins reaching the margin. The base of each leaf clasps the stems, giving the appearance of a zig-zag.
Flowers: The flowers of the plant are white with 6 tepals, 6 stamens, and a central pistil. The central stem turns into a inflorescence of flowers. This inflorescence is a narrow raceme about 1-4” long.
Fruits: The fruits of the plant are small berries about ¼” in diameter. The berries are initially green with purple or black stripes, but later become bright red.
Relationship with other Species:
The flowers of the plant attract bees and flower flies seeking pollen or nectar. Woodland song birds and mice consume the plant’s fruit, helping distribute seeds. Deer consume the plant’s foliage.
Smilacina stellata has been used as medicine by many Native American tribes such as the Navajo and Iroquois. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments including venereal disease, scrofula, stomachaches, and eye irritation. Some tribes have also used it as a contraceptive.
The Kaiwaissu tribe used the berries to fish in low-flow streams because the berries could paralyze fish, causing them to float to the surface