Synonyms: Smilacina stellata Other names: star-flowered lily of the valley Nomenclature: stellatum = star-shaped Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
General: widely rhizomatous perennial herb with flowering stems 20-60 cm tall, erect, slightly arching, straight to zigzag above, leafy, unbranched, finely short-hairy.
Leaves: alternate, stalkless, in 2 rows to spiraling, flat to folded, lanceolate to oblong- lanceolate or elliptic, sharp-pointed, 5-17 cm long, 1.5-5 cm broad, hairless to strongly short-hairy at least on the lower side, equally heavily veined or with 3 or 5 veins the more prominent.
Flowers: about 5-10 in a loose, terminal cluster, mostly 3-6 (10) cm long, the axis zigzag or sometimes straight. Flower stalks very slender to stout, from no longer than the flowers to 20 mm long. Flowers creamy-white, the 6 tepals narrowly oblong or lanceolate, 4-7 mm long, about half again as long as the stamens. Style about 1 mm long.
Fruits: berries, 7-10 mm long, greenish-yellow with 3 or 6 red to purple stripes when young, becoming dark blue to reddish-black when mature, with a slender point by the style.
Moist woods and streambanks to rocky, well-drained, often fully exposed sidehills, in w., c. and e. parts of MT. Also from AK to CA, CO, AZ, NV, and e. to the Atlantic coast.
The fruit of false solomon seal is edible, raw or cooked. The fruit is about the size of a pea and is produced on the plant in small terminal clusters of about 2 - 8 berries. It has a nice bitter-sweet flavor that is somewhat reminiscent of treacle. The fruit is a good source of vitamin C, it has been used to prevent scurvy. The fruit is said to be laxative in large quantities when eaten raw, especially if one is not used to eating it, though thorough cooking removes this laxative effect. Young leaves are edible, raw or cooked. The young shoots, as they emerge in spring, can be used as an asparagus substitute. The young shoots and leaves are cooked and used as greens. The root is edible cooked. It should be soaked in alkaline water first to get rid of a disagreeable taste. It can be eaten like potatoes.
Star-flowered lily of the valley was employed medicinally 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. A tea made from the roots was drunk to regulate menstrual disorders. A decoction of the leaves has been taken 2 - 3 times a day in the treatment of rheumatism and colds. Half a cup of leaf tea drunk daily for a week by a woman is said to prevent conception. The root is pain-relieving, antiseptic, and has agents that check bleeding, are healing for disorders and diseases of the eye, has substances which give strength and tone to the stomach and are used for healing wounds, fresh cuts, etc., usually used as a poultice. A tea has been used in the treatment of stomach complaints, internal pains and to regulate menstrual disorders. The dried powdered root has been used in treating wounds and bleeding. The crushed root has been used as a poultice on sprains, boils, swellings and limbs affected by rheumatism. The pulped root has been used as ear drops to treat ear aches. A tea of the roots has been used as a wash for inflamed eyes.