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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Saturday - May 09, 2015

From: New Cumberland, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification, Wildflowers
Title: Bleeding Heart-Like Plant Identification in PA
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants. We have a plant that looks almost like the bleeding heart, as in the way the bell shaped (not heart) white flowers hang downward on the stem. However, the leaves are broader and have a bit of white on the edges. The little flowers appear to be white, but then seem to have a bit of green on the tips, not yet opened. We are not sure what family this plant is from or if its a perennial or have to replant each year. We got this in a yard sale with no id on the plant. It was thought to be a bleeding heart, but the leaves are not the same nor the flowers. It stands about 12 inches or so. We are not sure how tall or wide this plant will get. The flowers hang single downward on the stalk in a line, just like the bleeding heart. We like your help if you can to identify this plant. We thought it to be part of the bell flower family, but cannot find a picture to identify it and also if a white flower is common for this plant or not. Thank you for your help if you can.

ANSWER:

Your description sounds like a variegated relative of the Smooth Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum). This tough perennial has white and green bell-shaped flowers that dangle down below the arching stem. Here's what we have on our webpage about this great plant...

The zig-zag arching stalks are from 1-5 ft. long. Nodding, greenish-white, tubular flowers hang in pairs from the axils of the oval, conspicuously veined leaves. Hanging from the leaf axils on an arching stem are a few (often 2) greenish-white, bell-like flowers. Blue berries follow the flowers of this perennial. The root is rhizomatous but non-colonizing.

The graceful arching stems and pendulous flowers (often hidden) characterize this common plant. Another, almost identical species, Hairy Solomons Seal (P. pubescens), is distinguished by minute hairs along veins on undersides of leaves. A much larger variety of this species, Great Solomon's Seal (P. biflorum var. commutatum), has larger flowers, 2-10 per cluster, and may be 7 (2.1 m) feet tall. The rootstalk, or rhizome, of the Solomons Seal is jointed; the leaf stalk breaks away from it, leaving a distinctive scar said to resemble the official seal of King Solomon. Native Americans and colonists used the starchy rhizomes as food.

Usually 2 feet tall, but occasionally exceeds 3 feet.

One of the variegated forms is Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum 'Variegatem' and can be found on the Missouri Botanical Garden website.

Easily grown in moist, humusy, organically rich, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Best performance occurs in cool sun-dappled shady areas. Dislikes hot summer conditions. Slowly spreads by thin rhizomes to form colonies in optimum growing conditions.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

Smooth solomon's seal
Polygonatum biflorum

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