Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily of the valley, (Convallaria majalis)(kon-va-lair'ee-uh mahalis)
Common names: Lily of the Valley, May lily, May bells, muguet (French)
Benefits to Wildlife: Attracts butterflies. Highly poisonous to humans and animals. If ingested—even in small amounts—can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, reduced heart rate, blurred vision, drowsiness and red skin rashes.
Genus: Convallaria Family: Asparagaceae Species: C. majalis
Type: Perennial rhizome Hardiness: Zones 3 - 7, Bloom Time: Flowers early spring
Exposure: Partial shade Height: 6" - 8" Spread: Aggressively under good conditions
Description: Herbaceous perennial plant 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 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. Flowering stems have two leaves and a raceme of 5–15 flowers on the stem apex. The flowers have six white tepals (rarely pink), fused at the base to form a bell-shape. Plants are self-sterile, and colonies consisting of a single clone do not set seed. If left intact, the deciduous leaves turn a golden hue in the fall, accompanied by colorful (but poisonous) orange berries that contain a few large whitish to brownish colored seeds that dry to a clear translucent round bead.
Cultivation: Easily grown, these small plants take a couple of years to establish and may not flower the first year. But their creeping rhizomes will soon spread rapidly, making an ideal ground cover even under large trees. . Plants will keep spreading, so you may want to locate them in a contained area. Leaves may become tattered and unattractive toward the end of the growing season;can be cut back to ground level.
Fertilizing: Apply a light application of 10-10-10 fertilizer or side-dress with compost and organic matter when new growth appears. Supplement nitrogen during periods of prolonged rain to counter natural leaching. Mulch with compost or well-rotted manure in early fall.
Soil and pH: Not fussy at all, but grows best with a soil rich in humus that is slightly acidic.
Watering: Plants prefer an evenly moist soil
Pests/Diseases: These plants are generally quite healthy and vigorous. Fungal leaf spotting may occur but is usually minor. Remove any affected foliage and destroy. Occasionally weevils will feed on the leaves, making small notches along the edges, but damage is usually insignificant.
Propogation/Transplanting: Lily-of-the-Valley is easily divided when dormant in spring or fall. Dig up the small rhizomes (called pips), gently separate, and replant 4 in apart; plants will fill in quite quickly. Water well after transplanting.
Notes/Gardening Tips: Sweetly scented, woodland flowering plant that is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia, and Europe. Although deadly, the plant has been used as a folk remedy in moderate amounts, and is currently used by herbalists as a restricted herbal remedy. Lily of the valley in the Northern Hemisphere flowers in early spring, in mild winters as early as March.
Convallaria majalis is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including the grey chi. Its scientific name, majalis, means "of or belonging to May". Old astrological books place the plant under the dominion of Mercury, since Maia, the daughter of Atlas, was the mother of Mercury. In the "language of flowers", lily of the valley signifies the return of happiness. Legend tells of the affection of a lily of the valley for a nightingale that did not come back to the woods until the flower bloomed in May. It is also known as Our Lady's tears or Mary's tears from Christian legends that it sprang from the weeping of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus. Other etiologies have its coming into being from Eve's tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden or from the blood shed by Saint Leonard of Noblac during his battles with a dragon. Lily of the Valley is a symbol of humility in religious painting, considered the sign of Christ's second coming. The power of men to envision a better world was also attributed to the lily of the valley.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it became tradition in France to sell lily of the valley on international labor day, 1 May (also called La Fête du Muguet (Lily of the Valley Day) by labor organizations and private persons without paying sales tax (on that day only) as a symbol of spring. The Norwegian municipality Lunner has a lily of the valley on its coat-of-arms. Lily of the valley was the floral emblem of Yugoslavia, and it also became the national flower of Finland in 1967.
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