Maianthemum trifolium (Three-leaf False Solomon's-seal)

Plant Info
Also known as: Three-leaf Solomon's-plume, Three-leaf False Lily of the Valley
Family:Ruscaceae (Butcher's Broom)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; bogs, swamps, wet forests
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:4 to 16 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] A single raceme of 5 to 15 star-shaped flowers on slender stalks at the top of the plant. Flowers are ¼ to 1/3 inch across with 6 white tepals (petals), 6 white stamens with creamy tips that turn reddish with age, and a creamy colored ovary in the center with a 3-parted style protruding at the top.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 2 to 4 leaves, usually 3, are alternately attached, nearly erect, and sheathing at the base. Leaves are oval to elliptic, 2 to 4¾ inches long, 1 to 1½ inches wide, with pointed tips, tapering towards the base, toothless and hairless, with numerous faint lines on the surface. The main stem is smooth and green to reddish.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of ripening fruit] Fruit is a small berry, green with reddish spots, that ripens to bright red.


Three-leaf False Solomon's-seal tends to grow in colonies. Overall the plant is similar to Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), but the flower cluster on the latter is more compact and is primarily a woodland species. This species also goes by Latin name Smilacina trifolia but the accepted name in Minnesota is Maianthemum trifolium. Formerly in the Liliaceae (Lily) family, all Maianthemum species have been reassigned to Ruscaceae (Butcher's Broom).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin County


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Alice - Leader,Mn. Motley Mn.
on: 2014-07-27 16:54:27

Plant has three long green leaves, stem in middle with three blue berries on little stems on top. Have never seen them before, Only noticed them today walking in woods. Never saw any flowers on them.

Posted by: Karen - Marcell, MN
on: 2015-06-15 10:43:13

Flowering in the bog this weekend

Posted by: Sue B - About 7 miles southeast of Hastings just east of St. Hwy 316
on: 2017-05-12 16:25:34

We are in the process of restoring our small wooded acreage, once badly overrun by buckthorn. It is located in an area of the Rochester Plateau and pre-settlement vegetation was thought to be oak openings and barrens. We've been at it for about five years now and were thrilled to find a small colony of what looks like these plants up in the woods while hunting for morels this morning. We will continue to watch the area as the summer progresses, in order to make a positive identification, but they sure look like it so far - three light green leaves, sort of like Solomon's seals or Lily-of-the-Valley.

Posted by: Gary W - Carlton County
on: 2017-06-04 22:01:20

The flowers of this plant are fragrant at least at night. I have seen this plant frequently throughout MN over the years during the day but never noticed a fragrance. Tonight while in a large patch of these in a swamp I became very aware of their fragrance which is sweet and filled the air.

Posted by: Sonia - Minneapolis
on: 2020-05-16 06:51:05

Hello, I have about 30 of these growing in my yard that has been untended for years. I uncovered more underneath overgrown plants that I'm cutting away or moving. I would like to move these to a more shady area where they will survive, now that the cover is gone where they popped up. What's the best way/time to move them? Thanks!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-05-16 07:10:23

Sonia, it is pretty unlikely you have this in your yard unless you live in a bog. More likely you have the related Canada mayflower, which is a common woodland species found in most of Minnesota. In either case, the best time to transplant anything is when it's dormant.

Posted by: Sharon - Woodbury
on: 2022-05-30 09:32:35

These were blooming along the boardwalk at Tamarack Nature Preserve, an interesting bog fen.

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