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False Solomon's Seal

Today I am talking about things named warningly: fool’s gold, near beer, the Nonesuch River, and False Solomon’s Seal. “Look out,” they say, right up front, in their names. “Don’t fall for my tricks. I am not what I seem. Don’t let me draw you in.” Now, I know what beer and gold are, and I’ve seen and swam in plenty of actual rivers, but I have never seen, nor even heard tell of, Solomon’s Seal, only this, its “false” incarnation, which I encountered this weekend on one of the trails at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The name hardly seems fair, defining the thing by what it is not, making its itness a notness (or vice versa), when the other thing, the thing that it is not, is not in and of itself well-known. Gold has more market value than pyrite; beer has more alcohol than its near counterpart; real rivers wet us when we walk down into them. But what makes Solomon’s Seal better, objectively, than False Solomon’s Seal? Nothing, I submit to you, but luck and timing. Which is to say, nothing at all. False Solomon’s Seal is as genuine an article as apple pie, or turtle soup. If the false had been discovered before the true, their names might very well have been reversed.

Let us celebrate False Solomon’s Seal here today, then, my Internet friends, and all the other arbitrary second fiddles and also rans, too. Like Brooklyn itself, as a matter of fact. And like me. And like you.