Maianthemum racemosum is a perennial, monocotyledon, summer-green, herb; stem 40-80 cm long (usually closer to 40) curved, stem green; sparingly clonal from short, thick rhizomes to 1 cm diameter, each becoming independent, new roots produced in summer from rhizome of previous year, may live up to 5 years; roots associated with vesicular-arbuscular endomycorrhizal fungi (Brundrett and Kendrick 1988; Berliner and Torrey 1989).
Leaves alternate, 5-12, pinnate, stalkless, blade elliptic, ranked, 7-15 cm long, 2-7 cm wide, tip pointed, base blunt, finely hairy below, major veins parallel, usually deeply impressed above; inflorescence 3-15 cm long, branched, terminal.
Flowers white, radially symmetrical, 0.2-0.5 cm wide, 6-parted, numerous, pollinated by insects; inflorescence terminal, cone-shaped, much branched (panicle); blooming May-June, clones self-incompatible.
Fruit fleshy, speckled red, becoming bright red, 1-2 seeds, ripen Sept-Oct. Seed load 26%. Pulp nutrients: water 90%, lipid 0%, protein 3%, CHO 50% (White 1989). Eaten and seeds dispersed by birds and small mammals (Martin et al. 1951).
Wetland status: FACU-.
Frequency in NYC: Common.
Habitat: Closed, rich, undisturbed or maturing moist forests (Piper, 1989). Often persists in somewhat disturbed forests also (Gargiullo, personal observation). Summer green, shade tolerant forest understory herb. Tolerates acid soil down to pH 3.8 (Greller et al. 1990). In NYC it has been found in soils with pH 4.8-7.7 (Gargiullo unpublished data).
Notes: Dispersal to and establishment in new sites in successional forest, contiguous to old regrowth stands has been calculated at a rate of 1.79 m/yr (Matlack 1994).