The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> Science >> Botany >> Flowering Plants >> Family Liliaceae (Lilies)
Lily of the Valley

(Convallaria 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 purity.

Lily of the Valley

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.

Scientific Classification

division Magnoliophyta
class Magnoliopsida
family Liliaceae
genus and species Convallaria majalis


Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Science >> Botany >> Flowering Plants >> Family Liliaceae (Lilies)

This page was last updated on October 07, 2017.