Eye-catching Late Summer-early Fall Berries of Herbaceous Plants.

Eye-catching Late Summer-early Fall Berries of Herbaceous Plants.


The deep blue berries of  Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum canaliculatum)  dangle from a gracefully arched stem beginning in late summer.  It is common in woodlands, along roadsides, under telephone wires,  in fencerows, woodland edges, under open grown trees and in thickets. (Swink & Wilhelm Plants of the Chicago Region).  It spreads quickly by rhizomes.


Feathery False Solomon’s Seal  (Smilacina  racemosa) at Chicago Botanic Garden. on 7/25/08.   It, too, is common in woods and spreads quickly by rhizomes.   While it is called racemosa, its flower and berry clusters do not grow in racemes, but in panicles.


The showy berries of  August and September of Aralia  racemosa are a  kaleidoscope of color.   Looking more like a shrub than an herbaceous plant,  Spikenard grows up to 6‘ tall and around, a magnificent picture.  It is found in moist or springy woods, dense shade on north-facing slopes, or calcareous rocky ravines.  Underplant it with Actea pachypoda, Cauliphyllum thalictroides, and Sanguinaria canadens



Photo by Jack Shouba

The flowers of Doll’s Eyes or White Baneberry (Actea pachypoda) are rather insignificant, but its black dotted, white berries, arranged on 30” tall, thick red stems  from which the name “Doll’s Eyes” comes from, are quite notable in late summer.   In nature, it is  are found in rich, undisturbed woods.   Beware–it, along with its cousin, Red Baneberry, is poisonous.


blue-cohosh-berries-2014 One of the most stunning displays is that of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides).  The berries are ”an iridescent blue which beggars all description,” say Swink & Wilhelm in Plants of the Chicago Region.  A woodland plant,  it is frequently found on northeastern-facing slopes.  Its compound scalloped leaves form a loosely layered, 1-2’ clump.  Its spring flowers are insignificant.



And finally, the stunning berries of Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum}  Jack Shouba not only supplied the photo to me, but the words, as well.  From Jac

Here is a picture of Arisaema triphyllum fruits. Note that the “-aema”

comes from the word for blood (Cf. haematology), referring to the


I always thought that Jack should be capitalized, as in my name, but

not all websites capitalize it.  Note that jack (small j) is used for a

laborer (lumberjack, steeplejack), jack pine, jack of diamonds, etc.

So I suspect that the jack that is in the pulpit is not a specific

person), but a generic man.

Here is lots of interesting info on the  plant’s many names.


Jack (not in a pulpit)



Thanks again, Jack







Leave a comment
  1. Suzanne Massion September 9, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Thanks, Pat, for another “berry” blog. I just found some Doll’s Eyes next to my carefully tended Jack-in-the-Pulpit patch deep in our oak savannah. Thanks for the warning. I’ve nurtured my Solomon Seal wherever I’ve found them over the years and now see more plants. I’ve always wondered why Dick Young’s book only gives it a 3. They must be spreading by seed also. Is it Smilacena racemosa or stellata that has the red berry clusters right now? Many thanks to Jack-not-in-a-Pulpit for the astute clarification.

  2. Jason September 11, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    I’ve been unsuccessful with Blue Cohosh. The Solomon’s Seal, Solomon’s Plume, and Spikenard grow well in my garden. This fall I planted some Red Baneberry, I hope to see lots of red berries next summer.

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