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Mr. Smarty Plants - Alternatives to Lily of the Valley in Arkansas

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Tuesday - March 08, 2011

From: Conway, AR
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Alternatives to Lily of the Valley in Arkansas
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I saw the question from the person who was looking for a native equivalent to Lily of the Valley and immediately thought of Solomon's Seal, which has similar bells on a stalk and grows in similar locations. Its distribution includes Texas. Another one might be Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum). I'm not sure if it's native, but it does grow here in central Arkansas, and it has white bells in spring.

ANSWER:

Thanks for pointing out Solomon's Seal. I expect Polygonatum biflorum (Smooth solomon's seal) is the plant you are recommending for the previous question asking for a replacement for Lily of the Valley.   It does have similar bells and grows in very similar locations.  I also found three other plants with variations of the Solomon's Seal name in the Plant Database: Maianthemum racemosum (Feathery false lily of the valley),   Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum (Feathery false lily of the valley) and Maianthemum stellatum (Starry false lily of the valley).  They are called variously Feathery false lily of the valley, False Solomon's seal, and Feathery false Solomon's seal for Maianthemum racemosum and Starry false lily of the valley, Starry false Solomon's seal, or Star-flowered Solomon's seal for Maianthemum stellatum.

                 
Polygonatum biflorum
        Maianthemum stellatum     Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum

            
   However, Mr Smarty Plants only recommends native plants where we have evidence of established populations in the region of the person who asked the question.  For the original question, the database of recommended plants by area was used, which pretty much ensures these recommendations are successful natives.  The native plant should be present in the state and preferably in the very county of the questioner.  We check this by the USDA link in the plant record which is derived from an excellent database of native populations.  For instance,  Polygonatum biflorum grows throughout most of the US including half of Arkansas but only a few counties of Texas [far from Travis County].  Maianthemum racemosum  has populations in most of the US, including Conway AR, but is only found in Texas at the far reaches of West Texas. The link attached to "most of the US" is directly to the USDA record.  If you click on a state with a population it will show the counties where the plant is documented.   Maianthemum racemosum ssp. racemosum grows in most of the Eastern US, including Conway but is not found in Texas.  And finally, Maianthemum stellatum is also not native to Texas and is only found in one Arkansas county to the NE of the state.

Leucojum aestivum (Summer snowflake) won’t get any recommendations from Mr Smarty Plants.  Wikipedia notes it is native to Europe (including the British Isles), southwest Asia and northern Iran.  The USDA does show populations established in the US, including the eastern states and Arkansas, but it doesn’t have its credentials as a native plant.  It is clearly indicated to be "introduced".

 

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