Perennial aquatic herb with a long, creeping rhizome flowering stem 10 - 40 cm long Leaves: alternate, one to four (commonly three), stalkless, 5 - 12 cm long, 1 - 4 cm wide, elliptic with a narrowly tapering base and pointed tip. Inflorescence: a terminal, long-stalked cluster (raceme) of three to fifteen flowers on an upright stem. Flowers: on long stalks, white, 8 mm wide, star-shaped, with six distinct, spreading tepals. Stamens six. Fruit: a one- to three-seeded spherical berry, from green and spotted to dark red, 4 - 6 mm wide.
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. The similar Maianthemum racemosum differs by having flowers that grow in a branched cluster called a panicle. Maianthemum stellatum is also similar but has six or more leaves, hairy leaf undersides, and a nearly stalkless flower cluster.
Habitat and ecology: Rare in the Chicago Region, known only to occur in a bog in Walworth County, Wisconsin. Typical of boggy and wet areas, where it often forms dense colonial patches.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Etymology: Maianthemum comes from the Greek words maios, meaning May, and anthemon, meaning blossom. Trifolium means three-leaved.