Botanical Name: Smilacina racemosa
Species: M. racemosum
Common Names: False Spikenard, Treacleberry, Feathery false lily of the valley, False Solomon’s seal, Solomon’s plume or False spikenard
Habitat: Smilacina racemosa is native to N. America – British Columbia to Nova Scotia, south to Georgia and Missouri. It grows in the moist coniferous and deciduous woods, clearings and bluffs, preferring shaded streamsides.
Smilacina racemosais a woodland herbaceous perennial plant growing to 50–90 cm (20–35 in) tall, with 7-12 alternate, oblong-lanceolate leaves 7–15 cm (2.8–5.9 in) long and 3–6 cm (1.2–2.4 in) broad. Bases are rounded to clasping or tapered, sometimes with a short petiole. Leaf tips are pointed to long-tipped.
Seven to 250 small flowers are produced on a 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) panicle that has well-developed branches. Each flower has six white tepals 3–6 mm (0.12–0.24 in) long and is set on a short pedicel usually less than 1 mm long. Blooming is mid-spring with fruiting by early summer. The plants produce fruits that are rounded to 3-lobed and green with copper spots when young, turning red in late summer.
It spreads by cylindrical rhizomes up to 0.3 m (1 ft 0 in) long with scattered roots. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
The Latin specific epithet racemosum means “with flowers that appear in racemes”, which can cause confusion as the inflorescence is a panicle; it is the individual branches of the panicle that have flowers arranged in a raceme.
An easy plant to grow, 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. Requires a lime-free soil. It does well in a woodland garden. Hardy to about -20°c. Plants take a few years to become established. 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. One report says that the plant is apomictic (producing seeds without sexual fusion), though this needs to be investigated further. The flowers have a gentle sweet perfume. For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form – tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a runner spreading indefinitely by rhizomes or stolons. The root pattern is rhizomatous with underground stems sending roots and shoots along their length.
Fruit – raw, cooked or made into jellies and molasses. The fruit is smaller than a pea but is produced in quite large terminal clusters on the plant and so is easy to harvest. It has a delicious bitter-sweet flavour, suggesting bitter molasses. The fruit is said to store well, it certainly hangs well on the plants and we have picked very delicious fruits in late October. Rich in vitamins, the fruit has been used to prevent scurvy. Some caution is advised since the raw fruit is said to be laxative in large quantities, though this is only if you are not used to eating this fruit. Thorough cooking removes much of this laxative element. Young leaves – raw or cooked. The young shoots, as they emerge in spring, can be cooked and used as an asparagus substitute. Root – cooked. It should be soaked in alkaline water first to get rid of a disagreeable taste. It can be eaten like potatoes or pickled.
Smilacina racemosa was widely employed by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The plant is contraceptive and haemostatic. A decoction is used in the treatment of coughs and the spitting up of blood. Half a cup of leaf tea drunk daily for a week by a woman is said to prevent conception. a poultice of the crushed fresh leaves is applied to bleeding cuts. A tea made from the roots is drunk to regulate menstrual disorders. The root is analgesic, antirheumatic, appetizer, blood purifier, cathartic and tonic. 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. The fumes from a burning root have been inhaled to treat headaches and general body pain. The fumes have also been used to restore an unconscious patient and to bring an insane person back to normal. The dried powdered root has been used in treating wounds. 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. A cold infusion of the root is used as a wash for sore eyes.
Other Uses: Plants can be grown as a ground cover when planted about 45cm apart each way.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.