Friday, May 1, 2009

Flower of the Month for May...Lily of the Valley

"I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley"
...from the Song of Solomon/Song of Songs

May's Flower, the Lily of the Valley, is known by two Latin names... lilium convallium and convallaria majalis. Other names include May Lily, May Bells, Lily Constancy, Ladder-to-Heaven, Male Lily and Muguet.

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 early March. The fruit is a small orange-redberry 5-7 mm diameter that contains a few large whitish to brownish colored seeds that dry to a clear translucent round bead 1 to 3 mm wide.

All parts of the Lily of the Valley (stalk, flowers, and berries) are highly poisonous, containing cardiac glycosides and saponims. An extract of the plant, digitalis glycosides, has been used for centuries to help treat heart ailments.

Some of the folk lore and legends associated with the Lily of the Valley:

*According to Christian legend, the tears Mary shed at the cross turned to Lilies of the Valley, thus giving the plant another name, Our Lady’s Tears.

*Picking and giving bouquets of the flower bring good fortune in love.

*During the Middle Ages and up to modern times, the blossoms are often included in a bride’s bouquet symbolizing modesty and purity.

*Another legend tells of the nightingales who only sing after the scent of the Lily of the Valley fills the air, giving the plant yet another name, Fairy’s Bells.


Melody Lea Lamb said...

Beautiful post and photograph, thanks for sharing it with us! I love this little flower, it pops up so early in the season and therefore is most welcome.


They are pretty flowers. Thank you!