This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Lily of the Valley. Solomon's Seal.
Convallaria majalis. Polygonatum multiflorum.
- Liliaceae. Proceeding downwards we first find a ring of abortive stamens, each ending in a long, deflexed hair. A little lower is a series of perfect anthers, and below these a similar group of pistils, the topmost row of which consists of abortive organs with hair-like processes. Small flies are attracted to the spathe by the carrion-like colour and odour of the spadix, and explore the lower premises. The hairs allow easy descent, but prevent return. If the flies have already been in an Arum flower they bring with them pollen on wings and feet, and find the stigmas ripe to receive it. When these are no longer fit for fertilization the anthers open and discharge their pollen in a shower on the insects; the stigmas secrete honey as a reward to the imprisoned flies, and the upper series of hairs shrivel up and set the insects free to carry their pollen to another Arum.
The spathe and spadix wither, but the ovaries develop into codlin-shaped pale scarlet berries. This species is plentiful throughout the country. There is one other species, Arum italicum, found locally from Cornwall to Sussex. It is larger and stouter in all respects; the upper part of the spathe bending over, and the spadix yellow. Flowers in June.
These plants are very familiar as garden flowers; they are nevertheless natives, though by no means common in the wild state. Both are characterized by having thick creeping rootstocks. Convallaria differs from Polygonatum in having no stem; the two or three leaves springing direct from the root-stock. The flower is a bell-shaped perianth, the mouth split into six recurved lobes. Stamens six, attached to the base of the perianth, around the ovary, which ultimately becomes a globose red berry. It is much more widely distributed than Polygonatum. In woods; flowers May and June. Name from the Latin Convallis, a valley. The only British species.
Solomon's Seal has a distinct arching stem, with alternate erect leaves. The flower-stalks spring from the axils of the leaves, and bear from two to five greenish-white flowers each. The berries that succeed the flowers are blue-black. The flowers are similarly formed to the last-mentioned, but longer, more tubular, and the lobes not turned back. The stamens are attached about half-way down the perianth. There are two other native species, both rare.
The Angular Solomon's Seal (P. officinale), much smaller than the last, the flowers mostly occurring singly, larger and greener. Wooded limestone cliffs, May and June.
Narrow-leaved Solomon's Seal (P. verticillatum), with leaves in whorls around the angled stem. Wooded glens, Northumberland, Perth and Forfar only. June and July; very rare.
Name from the Greek, polys, many, and gonatos, a knee or angle, in allusion to the many nodes.