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Convallaria majalis

lily of the valley

plant overview
small but not meek

Also known as Ladder-to-Heaven, Jacob's Ladder, Our Lady's Tears, Lily Constancy and various other names, lily of the valley isn’t a lily at all but is a cousin to asparagus. Owing to the delicate, bell-shaped white flowers that appear in early spring, the herb is a common garden ornamental and frequently worn or carried at weddings. Due to a number of glycosides present with the potential to act on the heart, lily of the valley should only be used internally under the direction of a qualified health care practitioner experienced in its administration. Otherwise, the dried herb is used to infuse oils for use in perfumery and to produce a green dye.

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Lily of the valley
A Bit of Botany
a little bit of botanical information for lily of the valley

Convallaria majalis is an herbaceous perennial plant of the Asparagaceae family that forms extensive colonies by spreading underground stems called rhizomes. New upright shoots are formed at the ends of stolons in summer; these upright dormant stems are often called pips. These grow in the spring into new leafy shoots that still remain connected to the other shoots under ground, often forming extensive colonies. The stems grow to 15–30 cm tall; with one or two leaves 10–25 cm long, flowering stems have two leaves and a raceme of 5–15 flowers on the stem apex.

The flowers are white tepals (rarely pink), bell-shaped, 5–10 mm diameter, and sweetly scented; flowering is in late spring, in mild winters in the Northern Hemisphere it is in early March. The fruit is a small orange-red berry 5–7 mm diameter that contains a few large whitish to brownish colored seeds that dry to a clear translucent round bead 1–3 mm wide. Plants are self-sterile, and colonies consisting of a single clone do not set seed.

common names & nomenclature
Its scientific name, majalis means "of or belonging to May" in reference to when it blooms.

Also known as:
lily of the valley, our lady's tears, may bells, mary’s tears, may lily, mugeut, lass’s tears

Lily of the Valley, small but not meek
Where in the World
habitat and range for lily of the valley

Convallaria majalis is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia, Europe and in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the United States.

Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting lily of the valley

Lily of the valley grows well as a groundcover in shady dry woodland locations.

Prefers a moderately fertile well-drained moist woodland soil. Grows well in heavy clay, sand or chalky soils, but dislikes pure clay soils and boggy sites.

Sow seed as soon as it is ripe, otherwise in late winter, in a cold frame. Germination, particularly of stored seed can be very slow, taking 2 - 12 months or more at 15°C. Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings can be allowed to grow on undisturbed in the pot for their first year. Can also divide the plant in September and plant directly into the new location.

Lily of the valley plant is harvested when it is in bloom. While the plant is more potent when used fresh, you may dry out the herb and store it for future use.

Store dried flowers and leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

All parts of the plant are highly poisonous, use with expert advice.

for educational purposes only

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

please be advised: 
Before making any changes to your diet you should always consult with your doctor,
especially if you are pregnant, nursing or have existing conditions.