Subspecies racemosum is distinguished from subsp. amplexicaule by its erect habit, clasping leaves, and short-acute leaf apex; these differences can be seen in the two color photographs in H. W. Rickett ([1966-1973], vol. 1(1), plate 6; vol. 5(1), plate 8).
Perennial herb with a long, creeping rhizome flowering stem 40 cm - 0.8 m long Leaves: alternate, seven to twelve, two-ranked, spreading horizontally, stalked, 9 - 17 cm long, 5 - 8 cm wide, elliptic to egg-shaped with a tapering base and a pointed or tail-like tip, parallel-veined, finely hairy beneath. Inflorescence: a terminal, pyramid-shaped cluster (panicle) of 70 to 250 flowers on an arching stem. Flowers: white, 2 - 5 mm wide, with six distinct, tiny, spreading tepals. Stamens six. Fruit: a one- to four-seeded spherical (or three-lobed) berry, 4 - 6 mm wide, from green to deep translucent red, dotted with purple.
Similar species: Plants in the genus Maianthemum (false Solomon's seal) are similar to those in the genus Polygonatum (true Solomon's seal) but differ in where the flowers grow. True Solomon's seal has flowers that grow and hang along the stem, while the flowers of false Solomon's seal grow in clusters at the end of the stem. Maianthemum racemosum var. racemosum differs from other Chicago Region Maianthemum by having flowers that grow in a branched cluster called a panicle.
Flowering: mid-April to late June
Habitat and ecology: Common in woods.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Sometimes cultivated.
Etymology: Maianthemum comes from the Greek words maios, meaning May, and anthemon, meaning blossom. Racemosum means "having a raceme (a type of flower cluster)."
Author: The Morton Arboretum
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
[Deam recognizes two varieties: the typical variety has longer (7-17 cm), pyramidal inflorescences whose longest branches have 8-24 flowers; inflorescences of var. cylindrata are nearly cylindrical and its longest branches have 6-10 flowers. The typical variety is] infrequent to frequent throughout the state in beech and sugar maple and black and white oak woods. This species has recently been studied by M. L. Fernald, who records his studies his studies in Rhodora no. 478 from which I have made my key.
[Variety cylindrica] is the southern form of the species. Although variety cylindrica and the typical form of the species overlap with intermediate forms in Indiana, the northern or typical form of the species and the southern form are quite distinct. The two forms are found throughout the state.