Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: giant Solomon's seal 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asparagaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States, south-central Canada
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 3.00 to 7.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Erosion, Wet Soil


Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in part shade to full shade. Perhaps best in moist soils in part shade. Slowly spreads by rhizomes to form colonies in optimum growing conditions. Can be difficult to grow from seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum, commonly called Great Solomon's seal, is native to Missouri where it occurs in rich woods, thickets, streambanks and along railroads throughout the State (Steyermark). It is a substantial plant that typically grows 3-5' (occasionally to 7') tall on stout, arching stems. Bell-shaped, greenish-white flowers dangle in spring from the leaf axils along and underneath the arching stems. Flowers appear in clusters of 2-10 per leaf axil. Flowers are followed by inedible but ornamentally attractive blue-black berries which dangle from the stems. Conspicuously parallel-veined, alternate leaves (to 7" long). Starchy, edible rhizomes were formerly used by early Americans as a potato-like food. Common name is usually considered to be in reference to the large, circular seals (leaf stalk scars) located on the rhizomes. However, Edgar Denison suggests that the name actually refers to "wound sealing properties" of the plant. Nomenclature of this plant is somewhat confused. Both a smooth small Solomon's seal (to 3' tall) and a great Solomon's seal (to 7' tall) are native to eastern North America. There is unanimous agreement that the smooth small Solomon's seal is P. biflorum. There is considerable controversy, however, as to what to call great Solomon's seal. Current trends seem to be to include great Solomon's seal as a variety of P. biflorum, namely, as P. biflorum var. commutatum. However, the small and great Solomon's seals do differ considerably (e.g., plant size, flower/fruit size, leaf vein arrangement and number of flowers per axillary cluster) so that a number of authorities have assigned great Solomon's seal separate species status, to wit, as P. commutatum, P. canaliculatum or P. giganteum, all of which are varyingly considered to be synonymous with P. biflorum var. commutatum.

Genus name comes from Greek words poly meaning many and gonu meaning knee joint in reference to the jointed plant rhizomes. Early herbalists believed that plants with jointed rhizomes were helpful in treating human joint disorders.

Specific epithet means twin-flowered.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Best in woodland gardens, wild gardens, cottage gardens, native plant or naturalized areas where it has plenty of room.