Polygonatum odoratum

Asparagus Family [Asparagaceae]

month8jun month8june month8jul month8july

Berries: berryZpossible        berryZgreen berryZyellow berryZbluish berryZblack  (poisonous, astringent)
berry8aug berry8sep berry8sept berry8oct berry8nov berry8dec


8th March 2013, Bavaria Photo: © Dawn Nelson
The stems are either fully erect or erect for a the first stage then arching over where the flowers start, just like the book says.

8th March 2013, Bavaria Photo: © Dawn Nelson
On this specimen the stems are more than just angular as per specification; they are also fluted in places. A single flower (up to 2 flowers) emerge from each leaf axil, no more.

8th March 2013, Bavaria Photo: © Dawn Nelson
The flowers on Angular Solomon's-seal are not in the slightest either slightly waisted or waisted in the middle like other species of Solomon's-seals, but are slightly bulging instead.

Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © Peter Llewellyn
Later in the year the ovary expands in becoming a berry and the petals wither then fall away.

Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © Peter Llewellyn
The white petals have shrivelled up and all are about to fall off the developing berries, which are green at first, becoming blue-black. They are toxic. Main veins and fainter secondary and tertiary veins by transmitted light.

7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The shortest Solomon's-seal growing to about 40cm high. Grows in woods on limestone, or as here, protected from the ravages of any wind within a limestone gryke.

7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Leaves alternate, as they are on all Solomon's-seals except those on the very rare Whorled Solomon's-seal when they are in whorls. [A different plant is growing deeper within the gryke, as well as grass by the side].

7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Leaves elliptical with a few curving veins which converge at each end; stem and tip. The stalks drooping down held a flower each, but they have dropped off by June (or maybe the same organism that has been consuming the leaves has also been at the developing berries?). The flowers are in only small bunches (of just one to two for each leaf axil, here only one).

7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Leaves alternate.

7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Curly whirly leaves. There are several fainter veins between the main veins.

7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
One flower stalk, although all the petals have dropped off, still retains the ovary (which will become the berry) and the long single style.

7th June 2014, Gait Barrows, nr Silverdale, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Hiding behind the leaves (if only your Author had noticed before taking the photograph - but it was raining heavily) on the limestone pavement is a single berry (as yet an un-ripe yellowish-green), but it will ripen to a bluish-black. They are both poisonous and astringent.

No relation to : Solomon's Mines.

Easily mistaken for : other Solomon's Seals unless observed closely.

The Genus name of Solomon's-seals, Polygonatum can easily be misinterpreted as Polygonum which is the genus name of Knotgrasses such as Ray's Knotgrass (Polygonum oxyspermum).

As a Solomon's-seal species - it has uniquely identifiable characteristics, but differentiating between species requires careful observation.

Angular Solomon's-seal is differentiated from all others by the 4-angled stems, the number of flowers (only 1-2 each leaf axil) the shortness (only ~40cm high) and the flowers which are not pinched in the middle (as are other Solomon's-seals to varying degrees). The flowers are fragrant, hence the odoratum as the specific epithet.

It is native and grows either in basic woodlands or in limestone grykes in North-West England and the Peak District, or around the Severn Estuary. It does not often occur natively elsewhere, except scattered in the South, although it can be found escaped from gardens. It is a quite rare [RR].


Quinine has been discovered only recently to be a secondary metabolite of several Solomons Seals, such as Whorled Solomon's-seal and Angular Solomon's-seal amongst others. Quinine was first found in the bark from the Chinchona tree, which grows natively in Peru, Bolivia and Chile and elsewhere. But it is now extracted from the bark of Remija because that is cheaper than Chinchona bark.

Quinine is a quinoline alkaloid (the two fused lower rings, one with a nitrogen atom in the ring). The other nitrogen atom of the molecule is within a bicyclic structure which your Author has drawn to resemble a 3-vaned paddle-wheel (top) [although its true 3-D structure is considerably warped]. The nitrogen-containing 6-membered polycyclic ring structure depicted near the top is reminiscent of the nitrogen-containing 7-membered polycyclic ring of the Tropane alkaloids.

Quinine is more famous for its use against malaria, at which it was quite effective. However, there were problems with the adverse effects of quinine and from 2006 the World Health Organisation no longer recommends it for such treatment when the more-effective and safer alternative called Artemisin is available.

Your Author also remembers its widespread use for cramps of the calf muscles occurring during the night (which occurred quite frequently during Scout Camping trips in the 60's) but apparently quinine is now not thought safe enough for over-the-counter sales, and can now only be obtained by prescription. Quinine is a dangerous drug and although it might be appropriate for a life-threatening illness such as malaria, it is deemed unsuitable for less severe problems. Use for leg-cramps can result in life-threatening side effects! Your Author thinks that he had better dispose of the quinine tablets from his Scout first-aid kit.

The third famous use for quinine is in tonic water to which it imparts the bitter flavour. It was originally present at therapeutic levels (500mg to 1g per litre) for treating malaria, but nowadays tonic water contains much lower concentrations of quinine of the order of 83mg per litre. Tonic Water is very bitter and it is usually drunk as Gin and Tonic for a sweeter experience. Tonic water is fluorescent emitting light mostly of wavelength 460nm (blue/cyan) under UV illumination due to the quinine contained within. In order to fluoresce it has to absorb photons of light at the wavelength of 350nm which is in the UVA band.

Quinine is a chemically basic amine and therefore forms salts. It is variously made as the hydrochloride, dihydrochloride, sulfate, bisulfate and gluconate. Clinical administration of the salt of quinine is orally. Quinine, as such, is never injected, but rather a stereoisomer of quinine called Quinidine. Quinidine is also found within Chincona bark (but your Author does not know if any Solomon's-seals follow suit).

THe common side effects of medicinal quinine are headaches, tinnitus, sweating and difficulty seeing properly. It can also make skin more susceptible to sunburn. More grave side effects include deafness, irregular heartbeat and low blood platelet count.

  Polygonatum odoratum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Asparagaceae  

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Polygonatum odoratum

Asparagus Family [Asparagaceae]