Jump to content

Lily of the valley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Lily of the Valley)

Lily of the valley
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Nolinoideae
Genus: Convallaria
C. majalis
Binomial name
Convallaria majalis
19th-century illustration

Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis ; /ˌkɒnvəˈlriə məˈlɪs/),[2] sometimes written lily-of-the-valley,[3] is a woodland flowering plant with sweetly scented, pendent, bell-shaped white flowers borne in sprays in spring. It is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia and Europe.[4][5] Convallaria majalis var. montana, also known as the American lily of the valley, is native to North America.[6][7]

Due to the concentration of cardiac glycosides (cardenolides), it is highly poisonous if consumed by humans or other animals.[8][9]

Other names include May bells, Our Lady's tears, and Mary's tears. Its French name, muguet, sometimes appears in the names of perfumes imitating the flower's scent. In pre-modern England, the plant was known as glovewort (as it was a wort used to create a salve for sore hands), or Apollinaris (according to a legend that it was discovered by Apollo).[10]



Convallaria majalis is a herbaceous perennial plant that often forms extensive colonies by spreading underground stems called rhizomes. New upright shoots are formed at the ends of stolons in summer,[11] these upright dormant stems are often called pips.[12] These grow in the spring into new leafy shoots that still remain connected to the other shoots under ground. The stems grow to 15–30 cm (6–12 in) tall, with one or two leaves 10–25 cm (4–10 in) long; flowering stems have two leaves and a raceme of five to fifteen flowers on the stem apex.

The flowers have six white tepals (rarely pink), fused at the base to form a bell shape, 5–10 mm (0.2–0.4 in) 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 (0.2–0.3 in) diameter that contains a few large whitish to brownish colored seeds that dry to a clear translucent round bead 1–3 mm (0.04–0.12 in) wide. Plants are self-incompatible, and colonies consisting of a single clone do not set seed.[13]



In the APG III system, the genus is placed in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Nolinoideae (formerly the family Ruscaceae[14]). It was formerly placed in its own family Convallariaceae, and, like many lilioid monocots, before that in the lily family Liliaceae.

There are three varieties that have sometimes been separated out as distinct species or subspecies by some botanists.[11][15]

  • Convallaria majalis var. keiskei – from China and Japan, with red fruit and bowl-shaped flowers (now widely cited as Convallaria keiskei)[13][16]
  • C. majalis var. majalis – from Eurasia, with white midribs on the flowers
  • C. majalis var. montana – from the United States, maybe with green-tinted midribs on the flowers[17]

Convallaria transcaucasica is recognised as a distinct species by some authorities, while the species formerly called Convallaria japonica is now classified as Ophiopogon japonicus.[16]



Convallaria majalis is a native of Europe, where it largely avoids the Mediterranean and Atlantic margins.[18] An eastern variety, C. majalis var. keiskei, occurs in Japan and parts of eastern Asia. A limited native population of C. majalis var. montana (synonym C. majuscula) occurs in the Eastern United States.[19] There is, however, some debate as to the native status of the American variety.[20]

Like many perennial flowering plants, C. majalis exhibits dual reproductive modes by producing offspring asexually by vegetative means and sexually by seed, produced via the fusion of gametes.[21]



Convallaria majalis is a plant of partial shade, and a mesophile type that prefers warm summers. It likes soils that are silty or sandy and acid to moderately alkaline,[22] with preferably a plentiful amount of humus. The Royal Horticultural Society states that slightly alkaline soils are the most favored.[23] It is a Euroasiatic and suboceanic species that lives in mountains up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) in elevation.[24]

Convallaria majalis is used as a food plant by the larvae of some moth and butterfly (Lepidoptera) species including the grey chi. Adults and larvae of the leaf beetle Lilioceris merdigera are also able to tolerate the cardenolides and thus feed on the leaves.[25]


Variegated cultivar early in spring
Double-flowered 'Flore pleno'

Convallaria majalis is widely grown in gardens for its scented flowers and ground-covering abilities in shady locations. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[26][27] In favourable conditions it can form large colonies.

Various kinds and cultivars are grown, including those with double flowers, rose-colored flowers, variegated foliage and ones that grow larger than the typical species.[16]

  • C. majalis 'Albostriata' has white-striped leaves
  • C. majalis 'Green Tapestry', 'Haldon Grange', 'Hardwick Hall', 'Hofheim', 'Marcel', 'Variegata' and 'Vic Pawlowski's Gold' are other variegated cultivars[16]
  • C. majalis 'Berlin Giant' and C. majalis 'Géant de Fortin' (syn. 'Fortin's Giant') are larger-growing cultivars[16]
  • C. majalis 'Flore Pleno' has double flowers.[16]
  • C. majalis 'Rosea' sometimes found under the name C. majalis var. rosea, has pink flowers.[16]

Traditionally, Convallaria majalis has been grown in pots and winter forced to provide flowers during the winter months, both in potted plants and as cut flowers.[28]


General chemical make-up of a cardiac glycoside

Roughly 38 different cardiac glycosides (cardenolides) – which are highly toxic if consumed by humans or animals – occur in the plant, including:[8][9][29]

  • convallarin
  • convallamarin
  • convallatoxin
  • convallotoxoloside
  • convallosid
  • neoconvalloside
  • glucoconvalloside
  • majaloside
  • convallatoxon
  • corglycon
  • cannogenol-3-O-α-L-rhamnoside
  • cannogenol-3-O-β-D-allomethyloside
  • cannogenol-3-O-6-deoxy-β-D-allosido-β-D-glucoside,
  • cannogenol-3-O-6-deoxy-β-D-allosido-α-L-rhamnoside,
  • strophanthidin-3-O-6-deoxy-β-D-allosido-α-L-rhamnoside,
  • strophanthidin-3-O-6-deoxy-β-D-allosido-α-L-arabinoside,
  • strophanthidin-3-O-α-L-rhamnosido-2-β-D-glucoside,
  • sarmentogenin-3-O-6-deoxy-β-D-allosido-α-L-rhamnoside
  • sarmentogenin-3-O-6-deoxy-β-D-guloside
  • 19-hydroxy-sarmentogenin-3-O-α-L-rhamnoside,
  • 19-hydroxy-sarmentogenin
  • arabinosido-6-deoxyallose
  • lokundjoside

The odor of lily of the valley, specifically the ligand bourgeonal, was once thought to attract mammalian sperm.[30] The 2003 discovery of this phenomenon prompted research into odor reception,[31] but a 2012 study demonstrated instead that at high concentrations, bourgeonal imitated the role of progesterone in stimulating sperm to swim (chemotaxis), a process unrelated to odor reception.[32]



All parts of the plant are potentially poisonous, including the red berries which may be attractive to children.[8][9][33] If ingested, the plant can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and irregular heartbeats.[29]





In 1956, the French firm Dior produced a fragrance simulating lily of the valley, which was Christian Dior's favorite flower. Diorissimo was designed by Edmond Roudnitska.[34] Although it has since been reformulated, it is considered a classic.[34][35] Because no natural aromatic extract can be produced from lily of the valley, its scent must be recreated synthetically; while Diorissimo originally achieved this with hydroxycitronellal, the European Chemicals Agency now considers it a skin sensitizer and its use has been restricted.[36][37]

Other perfumes imitating or based on the flower include Henri Robert's Muguet de Bois (1936),[38] Penhaligon's Lily of the Valley (1976),[34] and Olivia Giacobetti's En Passant (2000).[34]

Weddings and other celebrations

Catherine Middleton with bridal bouquet featuring lily of the valley

Lily of the valley has been used in weddings[39] and off-season can be very expensive.[40] Lily of the valley was featured in the bridal bouquet at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.[40][41] Lily of the valley was also the flower chosen by Princess Grace of Monaco to be featured in her bridal bouquet.[citation needed]

At the beginning of the 20th century, it became tradition in France to sell lily of the valley on international Labour Day, 1 May (also called La Fête du Muguet or Lily of the Valley Day) by labour organisations and private persons without paying sales tax (on that day only) as a symbol of spring.[42]

Lily of the valley is worn in Helston (Cornwall, UK) on Flora Day (8 May each year, see Furry Dance) representing the coming of "the May-o" and the summer. There is also a song sung in pubs around Cornwall (and on Flora Day in Cadgwith, near Helston) called "Lily of the Valley"; the song, strangely, came from the Jubilee Singers from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.[43]

Folk medicine


The plant has been used in folk medicine for centuries.[44] There is a reference to "Lilly of the valley water" in Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel Kidnapped, where it is said to be "good against the Gout", and that it "comforts the heart and strengthens the memory" and "restores speech to those that have the dumb palsey".[45] There is no scientific evidence that lily of the valley has any effective medicinal uses for treating human diseases.[8][29]

Cultural symbolism


The lily of the valley was the national flower of Yugoslavia,[46] and it also became the national flower of Finland in 1967.[47]

In the "language of flowers", the lily of the valley signifies the return of happiness.[39]

Myths and religion


The name "lily of the valley", like its correspondences in some other European languages, is apparently a reference to the phrase "lily of the valleys" (sometimes also translated as "lily of the valley") in Song of Songs 2:1 (שׁוֹשַׁנַּת הָעֲמָקִים).[48] European herbalists' use of the phrase to refer to a specific plant species seems to have appeared relatively late in the 16th[49] or 15th century.[50] The Neo-Latin term convallaria (coined by Carl Linnaeus) and, for example, the Swedish name liljekonvalj derives from the corresponding phrase lilium convallium in the Vulgate.

In culture


See also



  1. ^ Bilz, Melanie (2013). "Convallaria majalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T202965A2758291.
  2. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book. 1995. pp. 606–607.
  3. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  4. ^ "Invasive Species Photo Gallery - Wisconsin DNR". dnr.wi.gov. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  5. ^ "lily of the valley: Convallaria majalis (Liliales: Liliaceae): Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States". www.invasiveplantatlas.org. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  6. ^ "Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin". www.wildflower.org. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  7. ^ "ITIS Standard Report Page: Convallaria majuscula". www.itis.gov. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  8. ^ a b c d "Lily of the valley: Guide to Poisonous Plants". Colorado State University. 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "Lily of the valley: Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants". University of California. 2020. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  10. ^ Cockayne, Thomas Oswald (1864). Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England: Being a Collection of Documents, for the Most Part Never Before Printed, Illustrating the History of Science in this Country Before the Norman Conquest. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green. pp. 121. glovewort.
  11. ^ a b "Convallaria in Flora of North America @". Efloras.org. Retrieved 2012-04-30.
  12. ^ Mills, Linn; Post, Dick (2005). Nevada gardener's guide. Nashville, Tenn.: Cool Springs Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-59186-116-4.
  13. ^ a b OHARA, MASASHI; ARAKI, KIWAKO; YAMADA, ETSUKO; KAWANO, SHOICHI (2006). "Life-history monographs of Japanese plants. 6: Convallaria keiskei Miq. (Convallariaceae)". Plant Species Biology. 21 (2). Wiley: 119–126. doi:10.1111/j.1442-1984.2006.00157.x. ISSN 0913-557X.
  14. ^ Chase, M.W.; Reveal, J.L. & Fay, M.F. (2009), "A subfamilial classification for the expanded asparagalean families Amaryllidaceae, Asparagaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae", Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 161 (2): 132–136, doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00999.x
  15. ^ Weakley, A. S. (2020). Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden. p. 281. (Download page)
  16. ^ a b c d e f g RHS Plant Finder 2009–2010. Dorling Kindersley. 2009. pp. 195, 196. ISBN 978-1-4053-4176-9.
  17. ^ A. S. Weakley does not list green midribs among the distinctive characteristics of C. pseudomajalis, as he calls this taxon. – Weakley, A. S. (2020). Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden. p. 281. (Download page)
  18. ^ "Liljekonvalj Blomningstid" (in Swedish). Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  19. ^ "Convallaria majalis var. montana in Flora of North America". eFloras.org.
  20. ^ Gleason, Henry A. and Cronquist, Arthur, (1991), Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York, pp. 839–840. – In reply to Cronquist, A. S. Weakley points out that there is "a broad suite of morphological distinctions from European C. majalis" and that C. pseudomajalis, as he calls this taxon, is typically found "on ridges remote from present or past habitations" which excludes the idea of the taxon stemming from garden escapes. – Weakley, A. S. 2020. Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden. p. 281 (Download page)
  21. ^ Vandepitte, Katrien; De Meyer, Tim; Jacquemyn, Hans (February 2013). "The impact of extensive clonal growth on fine-scale mating patterns: a full paternity analysis of a lily-of-the-valley population (Convallaria majalis)". Annals of Botany. 111 (4): 623–628. doi:10.1093/aob/mct024. PMC 3605957. PMID 23439847.
  22. ^ "Lily of the Valley Planting Guide". easytogrowbulbs.com. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  23. ^ RHS Encyclopaedia of Perennials[full citation needed]
  24. ^ Rameau, J. C.; et al. (1989). Flore Forestière Française. Institut pour le développement Forestier. p. 1023. ISBN 978-2-904740-16-9.
  25. ^ Whitman, Ann. "Controlling Lily Leaf Beetles". Gardner's Supply Company. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  26. ^ "Convallaria majalis". RHS. Retrieved 2020-04-17.
  27. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 22. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  28. ^ Journal of horticulture and practical gardening. 1872. p. 378. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  29. ^ a b c Roberts, Darren M.; Gallapatthy, Gamini; Dunuwille, Asunga; Chan, Betty S. (2016). "Pharmacological treatment of cardiac glycoside poisoning". British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 81 (3): 488–495. doi:10.1111/bcp.12814. ISSN 0306-5251. PMC 4767196. PMID 26505271.
  30. ^ Marc Spehr; Günter Gisselmann; Alexandra Poplawski; Jeffrey A. Riffell; Christian H. Wetzel; Richard K. Zimmer; Hanns Hatt (2003). "Identification of a Testicular Odorant Receptor Mediating Human Sperm Chemotaxis". Science. 299 (5615): 2054–8. Bibcode:2003Sci...299.2054S. doi:10.1126/science.1080376. PMID 12663925. S2CID 45306091. Retrieved 24 June 2012.
  31. ^ For example ScienceDaily 2007
  32. ^ Christoph Brenker; Normann Goodwin; Ingo Weyand; Nachiket D Kashikar; Masahiro Naruse; Miriam Krähling; Astrid Müller; U Benjamin Kaupp; Timo Strünker (2012). "The CatSper channel: a polymodal chemosensor in human sperm". The EMBO Journal. 31 (7): 1654–1665. doi:10.1038/emboj.2012.30. PMC 3321208. PMID 22354039. See also ScienceMag article
  33. ^ "Poisonous plants: Lily of the valley". Ontario Poison Centre, The Hospital for Sick Children. 2015.
  34. ^ a b c d "Lily of the Valley Perfumes". Vogue slideshow.
  35. ^ Patty. "Best Lily of the Valley Perfume – Muguet Guide". Perfume Posse, April 8, 2013.
  36. ^ Turin, Luca; Sanchez, Tania (2018). Perfumes: The Guide 2018. Tallinn: Perfüümista ÖÜ. p. 304. ISBN 978-9949-88-553-4.
  37. ^ "Substance Infocard: 7-hydroxycitronellal". European Chemicals Agency.
  38. ^ Morris, Edwin T. (1984). Fragrance : A story of perfume from Cleopatra to Chanel. New York: Scribners. ISBN 978-0684181950.
  39. ^ a b "Wedding Traditions & Trivia". Archived from the original on 2012-07-15. Retrieved 2012-07-23.
  40. ^ a b Lily of the Valley Stars in Royal Bridal Bouquet
  41. ^ Balcony kisses seal royal wedding
  42. ^ "Lily of the Valley – May Day in France". wordpress.com. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  43. ^ Coleman and Burley, Hilary and Sally (2015). Shout Kernow. London: Francis Boutle Publishers. pp. 53–55. ISBN 978-1903427972.
  44. ^ Weiss, RF (1988). Herbal Medicine. Ab Arcanum. pp. 146–147. ISBN 978-0906584194.
  45. ^ Stevenson, RL (1886). Kidnapped. Cassell and Company.
  46. ^ "Lily of the valley". flowers.org.uk. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  47. ^ "Lily of the Valley – Finland's National Flower". wordpress.com. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  48. ^ See also Shoshanat HaAmakim village
  49. ^ "Lily of the valley | Search Online Etymology Dictionary".
  50. ^ Keil, Gundolf. „Es hat vnser libe fraw gesprochen in dem puch der libe: ‚Ich pin ein plvm des tals vnd auch des grvnen waldes'": Die Einführung der Convallarin-Glykoside als Hinweis auf mährisch-schlesische Provenienz. In: Iva Kratochvilová, Lenka Vaňková (Hrsg.): Germanistik im Spiegel der Generationen. Festschrift Zdeněk Masařík. Opava/ Ostrava 2004, S. 72–132.
  51. ^ Dunbar, Paul Laurence (1905). "Lily of the Valley". Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 9–10. ISBN 9781978194366. Retrieved 2022-07-15.
  52. ^ "Lilies of the Valley". Tchaikovsky Research. 2022-07-12. Retrieved 2022-07-16, citing Poznansky, Alexander (1996). Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man. Schirmer Books. pp. 336–7. ISBN 0028718852.
  53. ^ "Lilies-of-the-Valley, 1916". Marc Chagall. 2022. Retrieved 2022-07-16. on display at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
  54. ^ "'Breaking Bad' Face Off (TV Episode 2011)". IMDb (Plot Summary). Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  55. ^ "Queen Elizabeth II: Poet laureate Simon Armitage marks death of monarch". BBC News. 2022-09-13. Retrieved 2022-09-13.