of the Valley
majalis) A popular legend says that Mary's
tears at the cross turned into lily of the valley
flowers, which is why they are associated with
The lily of the valley is a
perennial flowering plant that grows wild in
moist, shady woodlands of Europe; it has been
introduced into the southern Allegheny region of
North America and northern Asia, and is grown by
gardeners anywhere there is shade, deep soil, and
mild temperatures during the blooming season
(late March to early June). It is a low-growing
plant, generally reaching a height of 8-9 inches.
The bell-shaped lily of the
valley flowers are creamy white to pink in color
and hang upside down in a long cluster along a
slender stalk that grows from an underground
stem. Female flowers produce berries about
1/4inch in diameter that turn red in the fall.
Each stalk usually has two wide, oblong leaves.
In the wild, lilies of the
valley are usually pollinated by honeybees and
propogate by spreading seeds. Those grown by
gardeners and commercial producers are usually
propagated by rhizome divisions.
Lily of the valley roots,
flowers and leaves contain cardiac glycosides,
which are used in heart medications and other
drugs; those same glycosides make the plant
toxic, so it has very few natural enemies. The
very fragrant flowers are used as a scent in
perfumes, scented candles, potpourri, soaps, etc.
The lily of the valley is traditionally
associated with purity and is, therefore, a
popular wedding flower. It is also the
traditional birth flower for May.
genus and species Convallaria majalis
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