Know Your Natives – False Solomon’s seal

False Solomon’s seal (with a comparison to Solomon’s seal)

False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) of the traditional Liliaceae (Lily Family) grows in all states of the U.S. except Hawaii, as well as throughout most of Canada and in northern Mexico, with an eastern and a western subspecies recognized.  In Arkansas, false Solomon’s seal is found primarily in the highlands of the northwestern half of the state as well as in scattered nearby counties and on Crowley’s Ridge.  Its natural habitat is shaded woodlands and forests with slightly moist soil.  The plant has branched rhizomes, so that clumps often form over time.  Other common names include Solomon’s plume and false spikenard.

Unbranched, medium-green, arching stems from 2-3 feet have similarly colored, alternate, oval to elliptic leaves (Photo 1). Leaves, generally horizontal to the main stem, have very short petioles and fewer parallel major veins (as compared to Solomon’s seal), but sometimes with many secondary veins.  The stem bends at upper leaf nodes so that the upper portion is slightly zigzag.  The smooth stalk becomes ridged between upper leaves and into the inflorescence.

False Solomon’s seal blooms in mid-spring and the inflorescence, a terminal panicle (flowers on pedicels attached on secondary racemes), consists of small, creamy-white flowers (Photo 2).  The star-shaped flowers are dominated by large anthers.  Round berries are green at first and change to a complex pattern of pink/red and then to ruby red (Photo 3).

Photo 1 - Mature plants in bloom

Photo 1 – Mature false Solomon’s seal in bloom

Photo 2 - Terminal panicle

Photo 2 – Terminal panicle of false Solomon’s seal

Photo 3 – Ripening berries

Photo 3 – Ripening berries of false Solomon’s seal

Solomon’s seal (compared to false Solomon’s seal)

True Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum), also of the traditional Liliaceae (Lily Family), occurs in similar habitats to false Solomon’s seal but is absent from most of the western states.  Occurrence in Arkansas by county is similar to false Solomon’s seal, but this species, which may be twice as tall as false Solomon’s seal, grows in moister soils of woods as well as along streams and in sunnier valleys.  The common name is based on the appearance of stem scars on the branching rhizomes (Photo 4).  Leaves, with many major and secondary parallel veins, are sessile and arch upward from the stem.  Solomon’s seal also blooms in mid-spring.  Two or more greenish-white, elongate, bell-shaped flowers dangle from long, thin stalks growing from the axil of each leaf along the length of the stem (Photo 5).  Round, green berries change to a dark blue with a whitish film at maturity (Photo 6).

Prior to blooming, the stem and leaf shape of both species are similar, but they can usually be determined by noting plant size, number and spacing of leaf veins, as well as attachment and angle of leaves to stem.

For gardens, both species are attractive and add variety with their interesting growth habits and texture from spring into fall.  Solomon’s seal spreads readily by rhizomes, though, and may be too aggressive for some gardens.

Photo 4 – Branched rhizome showing stem scars

Photo 4 – Branched rhizome of Solomon’s seal showing stem scars

Photo 5 – Bell-Shaped flowers hang loosely

Photo 5 – Bell-shaped flowers of Solomon’s seal

Photo 6 – Mature berries and fall foliage

Photo 6 – Mature berries and fall foliage of Solomon’s seal

(Note:  Some non-flowering bellwort (Uvularia spp.) plants are similar in appearance to non-flowering false Solomon’s seal and Solomon’s seal, possibly causing confusion.)

Photo 7 – Branched stem of a mature large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) in bloom.

Photo 7 – Branched stem of a mature large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) in bloom.

Article and pictures by ANPS member Sid Vogelpohl

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Know Your Natives – Pussytoes

Pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii) of the Asteraceae (Aster) Family, occurs throughout most of Arkansas, especially in northwestern and central portions of the state.  It also occurs from Texas to the Dakotas and eastward to the Atlantic.

Flowering stems among old basal leaves.  Stems initially recumbent, then upright.

Emerging flowering stems among old basal leaves of pussytoes. Stems initially recumbent, then upright.

These perennial, low-growing plants are usually found in sunny to shady, dry sites including rocky slopes, open oak, hickory and pine woodlands and prairies.

Nectar source for an over-wintering mourning cloak.

Pussytoes as a nectar source for an over-wintering mourning cloak.

Pussytoes form colonies growing from stolons (horiztonal stems above ground that root at nodes…as opposed to rhizomes which are horizontal, root-like stems underground, which can be found on some species of pussytoes outside of Arkansas).  New basal leaves appear in a rosette after flowering has started and while old leaves are still present (unless unusually cold winter).   Basal leaves are spoon-shaped with long petioles and three to five prominent veins from petiole to tip. 

Basal leaf with American lady butterfly.

Basal leaf of pussytoes with caterpillar of American lady butterfly.

The pale green leaves have long white, tangled hairs on the upper surface and dense white, short tangled hairs on the lower surface.  Leaves are about three inches long and two inches wide.

Flower stems are generally less than 12 inches tall, sparsely leafy and woolly.  Stem (cauline) leaves are sparse and alternate with a linear shape and a point at the tip.  Upper and lower surfaces of stem leaves are woolly.

Pussytoes bloom in early spring with small whitish flowers crowded into a tight, terminal fuzzy cluster (corymb), less than ½ inch wide, of four to twelve flower heads giving the appearance of a cat’s paw, hence the common name.

Achenes poised to disperse. Also looks like a cat’s paw?

Achenes (seeds) of pussytoes poised to disperse.

Flower heads are composed of 20 to 100 tubular florets supported in a receptacle of small leaf-like bracts (involucre).  Male and female flowers grow on separate plants (dioecious).  Male flowers are on shorter stems than female flowers and male flower clusters are rounded.  Female flowers are on taller stems and clusters are more elongated with pink to red styles extended above the florets.  Seeds (achenes) are equipped with hairs for wind dispersal.  Seeds disperse quickly and the stems wither by early summer.

Pussytoes colony after seed dispersal.

Pussytoes colony after seed dispersal.

Pussytoes are an excellent choice for native plant gardens with partial sun and well drained sandy/rocky soil.  Plants provide an attractive ground cover by adding texture and color.  It’s also a host plant for American lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis) and a nectar plant for various other butterflies and moths.  (Photos taken in a garden setting.)

Nectar source for juniper hairstreak and grapevine epimenis.

Pussytoes flowers are a nectar source for various butterflies and moths, such as juniper hairstreak and grapevine epimenis.

Two other species of pussytoes grow in Arkansas.  Antennaria plantaginifolia, also generally just called ‘pussytoes’, looks nearly identical to A. parlinii and is dificult to distinguish.  It differs primarily in chromosome numbers and flower size (on the order of a few milimeters).  Antennaria neglecta (field pussytoes) has leaves with a single vein and is rare in Arkansas, restricted to tallgrass prairies in the northwestern part of the state but also known from one historic record from the Grand Prairie of eastern Arkansas.

Article and photos by Sid Vogelpohl, ANPS member

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2014 ANPS Spring Meeting Information

Arkansas Native Plant Society Spring Meeting 2014
May 2-4, 2014
Harrison, Arkansas
Featuring the Buffalo National River and vicinity

The town of Harrison, located in Boone County, is our base of operations for the spring meeting this year. We plan to visit the Buffalo National River, Baker Prairie Natural Area, and Sweden Creek Falls Natural Area during the weekend walks. Please plan to join us as we explore some of the most beautiful country in the Ozarks!

Harrison is located just north of the magnificent Buffalo National River, which flows for more than 150 miles through the Boston Mountains and the Springfield and Salem Plateaus. The park offers visitors opportunities to canoe and kayak beneath towering bluffs on the river as well as to explore caves, waterfalls, pioneer homesteads, and (most importantly) native wildflowers on more than 100 miles of hiking trails.

A stone’s throw from the Buffalo River, Sweden Creek Falls Natural Area features glades, dry woodlands, bluffs, and an 80-foot waterfall surrounded by mesic hardwood forest. Baker Prairie Natural Area, located in Harrison, is a 70 acre remnant tallgrass prairie on which a number of plant and animal species of conservation concern occur. Both sites are owned and managed by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission (The Nature Conservancy also owns a portion of and co-manages Baker Prairie).


Quality Inn Hotel and Convention Center
1210 US 62/65 N, Harrison, AR, US, 72601
(870) 741-7676

ANPS has reserved a block of 30 rooms at the Quality Inn in Harrison. The cost for each room is $76.49 + tax per night. This rate includes high-speed wireless internet and a breakfast buffet each morning. Please call (870) 741-7676 for reservations. Rooms will be held until April 18. Be sure to mention that you are attending the Arkansas Native Plant Society meeting when making the reservation.

Overflow hotel options include Holiday Inn Express – (870) 741-3636, Hampton Inn (870) 365-0505, Days Inn – (870) 391-3297, and Hotel Seville – (870) 741-2321. 

Meals: A potluck will be held on Friday and Saturday evenings. All other meals are on your own. A Walmart Supercenter is less than one mile north of the hotel, and there are a wide variety of full-service and fast food restaurants near the hotel.


Friday, May 2, 2014
Quality Inn Convention Center  (adjoining the hotel)

4:00-7:00 pm – Registration, field trip signup, and potluck.

Registration is $5.00 (no preregistration is required). ANPS members are encouraged to bring snacks and munchies to share with the group. Drinks will be provided. Signup sheets for Saturday and Sunday field trips will be available.

7:00 pm – Evening program. Dr. Tamara Walkingstick, Associate Director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, is our invited speaker. The title of her talk will be announced at the meeting.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

8:30 am – Morning walks, departing from the Quality Inn Hotel parking lot. 

12:00-1:30 pm – Pack your lunch and enjoy eating at one of the public access spots along the river, or buy lunch from one of the local restaurants or river outfitters in the area:

Lost Valley Canoe, Ponca – pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks (organic and gluten-free foods are also available)

Buffalo Outdoor Center Store, Ponca – homemade sandwiches on bread from Neighbor’s Mill, pizzas, and snacks

Low Gap Café – salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes in the old general store at Low Gap

Ozark Café, Jasper – operating continuously since 1909, this Jasper landmark has a soda fountain, an extensive menu, and a salad bar

1:30 pm – Afternoon walks.


5:00-7:00pm – Registration and potluck. Signup sheets for Sunday morning walks will be available.

7:00 pm – Evening program. Our invited speakers are two University of Arkansas, Fayetteville graduate students who received scholarships/grants from ANPS in 2013:

Eric Hearth, recipient of the Delzie Demaree Research Grant, is pursuing a Ph.D. in invasive botany under the supervision of Dr. Stephen L. Stephenson and Dr. Johnnie L. Gentry. Eric’s research involves examining the habitats of five target invasive species in Arkansas and West Virginia, as well as examining allelopathic effects they may have in the habitats they invade.  He will present the talk, “Examining the Habitat of Target Invasive Plants.”

Ty Murdoch, recipient of the Aileen McWilliam Scholarship, is pursuing a Master of Science degree under the direction of Dr. Cindy L. Sagers. Ty will talk to us about his research, “Transgene escape in Canola and hybridization with a naturalized species, Brassica rapa.”

Business Meeting to follow presentations.


Sunday, May 4, 2014 

8:30 am – Morning walks, departing from the Quality Inn Hotel parking lot.


ANPS T-Shirts:  Remember, T-Shirts are only available for sale at the Spring and Fall meetings.  Please do not ask to reserve one or that we mail you one.  We can’t.  For more information about the ANPS T-Shirts, click here. (See website under About)

If you have questions about the meeting, or need directions to the hotel and convention center, please email Jennifer Ogle at

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