Wild lilly of the valley

Plant Database

Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia

Maianthemum dilatatum

Maianthemum dilatatum (Alph. Wood) A. Nelson & J.F. Macbr.

Synonym(s): Maianthemum bifolium ssp. kamtschaticum, Maianthemum bifolium var. kamtschaticum, Maianthemum kamtschaticum

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

An erect stalk, 2-4 in. high, bears two broad, glossy-green, heart-shaped leaves and a terminal, spiky cluster of tiny, white flowers. Subsequent berries are red. Since each stalk comes from an extensive, horizontal, underground root system, a single plant can, in time, produce hundreds of above-ground triads – two leaves and a flower cluster. Grows in the low patches and has slender racemes of tiny white flowers held stiffly erect just above heart-shaped leaves.

The genus name, from the Greek maios (May) and anthemon (flower), refers to time of flowering. This plant, which spreads by underground roots, makes an attractive ground cover in woodland gardens.

From the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit: Red
Size Class: 0-1 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul


USA: AK , CA , ID , OR , WA
Canada: BC
Native Distribution: Northwestern North America from Alaska south to Marin County, California and northern Idaho, and northeastern Eurasia
Native Habitat: Moist, shaded stream banks & woods

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pHSoil Description: Moist soils.
Conditions Comments: An extremely aggressive ground cover that should be used with caution as it seems happiest when invading areas where it is not wanted. Will grow in nutrient poor sites.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Propagate by rhizome division or seed. Plant seeds fresh (when berries turn red) in late summer
Seed Collection: Not Available
Seed Treatment: Not Available
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status


This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241).Click herefor map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Seed Network – Corvallis, OR


Bibref 928 – 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Maianthemum dilatatum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Maianthemum dilatatum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Maianthemum dilatatum


Record Modified: 2015-03-05
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back

Collection restrictions or guidelines –
Rhizomes can be collected in the fall or the spring and planted soon

Plant Data Sheet

Maianthemum dilatatum

Species (common name, Latin name) – False lily-of-the-valley, two-leaves Solomons Seal, Maianthemum dilatatum

Range – Alaska south along the coast to central California and east to Idaho (Stewart 1994).

Climate, elevation – Low to middle elevations (Lowland to Montane Zones) (Pojar and Mackinnon 1994; Stewart 1994)

Local occurrence (where, how common) – Very common in some areas throughout its range. Can be the dominant understory (Taylor and Douglas, 1995).

Habitat preferences – Moist to wet environments, usually shady woods and riverside areas (Pojar and Mackinnon 1994). Sometimes forms the dominant groundcover in Sitka-spruce forests near the sea (Pojar and Mackinnon, 1994). M. dilatatum grows in light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The species prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It requires moist soil.

Plant strategy type/successional stage (stress-tolerator, competitor, weedy/colonizer, seral, late successional) – Tolerant of deep shade (late successional). Can become invasive under good conditions (Huxley 2001).

Associated species – In Oregon and Washington, common species associated with Maianthemum dilatatum include sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), swordfern (Polystichum munitum), Oregon oxalis (Oxalis oregana), western springbeauty (Montia sibirica), three-leaved coolwort (Tiarella trifoliata), evergreen violet (Viola sempervirens), stream violet (V. glabella), Smith fairybells (Disporum smithii), red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium), and rustyleaf menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea) (forestworld.com).

May be collected as: (seed, layered, divisions, etc.) – Seed or Divisions

Seed germination (needs dormancy breaking?) – It can take up to 18 months for seeds of false lily-of-the-valley to germinate.

Seed life (can be stored, short shelf-life, long shelf-life) – Stored seed should be sown in late winter in a cold frame, it might take 18 months to germinate.

Recommended seed storage conditions

Propagation recommendations (plant seeds, vegetative parts, cuttings, etc.) – Planting from seed and divisions have been successful.

Soil or medium requirements (inoculum necessary?) – Plant in shady, moist to wet environments. Soil can range from sandy to clay and from acidic to basic. Soil should be hummus-rich (Royal BC Museum, 2003).

Installation form (form, potential for successful outcomes, cost) – If growing from seed, allow the seedlings to grow on in the pot for their first year, giving liquid feeds as necessary to ensure that they do not go hungry. Divide the plants into individual pots once they have died down in late summer. Grow them on in pots for another year or more until large enough to plant out (Fern, 2003).

This species is easily propagated by rhizomes, which are just below the surface of the soil. The rhizomes should be dug up in fall and divided, and then planted as soon as possible in their new home (Royal BC Museum, 2003). Division can also be done as new growth commences in the spring. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well.

Recommended planting density – Seeds are best sown thinly it as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, it should germinate in the spring. This plant can easily become an invader.

Care requirements after installed (water weekly, water once etc.) – When seedlings are in pots for their first year, give them liquid feeds as necessary to ensure that they do not go hungry. Overall, this species does not require much care (Royal BC Museum, 2003).

Normal rate of growth or spread; lifespan – Once established, the false lily-of-the-valley can overwhelm the area. Since it reproduces by rhizomes, the plant can live a very long time and continue to vegetatively reproduce (Royal BC Museum, 2003).

Sources cited –

Fern, K. Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

Huxley. A. 1992. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. MacMillan Press.

Pojar, J. and A. MacKinnon. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. B.C. Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Publishing. Vancouver, British Columbia.

Royal British Columbia Museum. 2003. Native Plants of British Columbia.

Stewart, C. 1994. Wildflowers of the Olympics and Cascades. Nature Education Enterprises. Port Angeles, Washington.


Data compiled by (student name and date) – Daniela Shebitz 5/5/03

Lily of the valley is a flowering plant.

Other names include May bells, Our Lady’s tears, and Mary’s tears.

It is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia and Europe; and is also found in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the United States.

This flower is cultivated in shaded garden areas in many temperate parts of the world.

Lily of the Valley is a herbaceous perennial plant.

The plants often grow closely together, forming a dense mat, and are sometimes used as ground cover.

It blooms in the spring and early summer — usually May.

Lily of the valley has nodding white bell-shaped flowers that are borne in a cluster on one side of a leafless stalk. The glossy leaves, usually two, are located at the base of the plant. The fruit is a red berry.

Over the centuries, the lily of the valley has developed many meanings:
• Its small stature and shade-loving disposition have made it a natural symbol of humility.
• The sweet-smelling white flowers have been associated with the traditional feminine virtues of chastity, purity and sweetness.
• In the Victorian language of flowers, lily of the valley meant “return of happiness.”
• Christians have handed down the legend of Eve’s tears, which holds that when the biblical Eve wept after her expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the tears turned into lilies of the valley.
• The plants are sometimes also associated with the purity and chastity of the Virgin Mary.

Not a true lily, it is botanically called Convallaria majalis, which means “May valley.”

Lily of the valley is only species of the genus Convallaria in the asparagus family (Asparagaceae).

Its French name, muguet, sometimes appears in the names of perfumes imitating the flower’s scent.

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. Although it has since been reformulated, it is considered a classic.

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

Lily of the valley was the floral emblem of Yugoslavia, and it also became the national flower of Finland in 1967.

In the Bible, lily of the valley is mentioned 15 times, most often in the Song of Solomon.

According to the Bible, the lily of the valley blossomed from the spot on the ground where Mary’s tears fell at the foot of the cross.

Lily of the valley is supposed to protect gardens from evil spirits and is known to have been used as a charm against witches’ spells. It is also considered the flower of fairies, its tiny bells used as cups from which to drink.

The lily of the valley is the May birth flower.

Lily of the valley has been used in weddings and can be very expensive. Lily of the valley was featured in the bridal bouquet at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

In terms of musical influence, “Lily of the Valley” is also a song by Queen on their album Sheer Heart Attack.

Lily of the Valley is highly poisonous. It was featured in the TV show Breaking Bad, as it was used by Walter White as a naturally occurring poison.


Stephen Ryan

STEPHEN RYAN: Remember those little spring surprises I told you about? Well this is one of my favourites. And it would seem to be one of the world’s most favourite plants. It is Lily-of-the-Valley. It seems to be in every scented product in the supermarket.

And if you want to try and grow it, and it is a tricky plant to grow, try giving it a cool, moist aspect with very humus-rich soil.

The family Convallariaceae is what this plant comes from, so obviously the family’s named after the plant, but it has a lot more to offer than just Lily-of-the-Valley.

One of the characteristics of the Lily-of-the-Valley family are the dainty little bell-like flowers that they all produce. It’s one of their trademarks. And this is another plant in that group. It’s called Solomon’s Seal and is a well known perennial in its own right. Botanically, it’s Polygonatum falcatum in the form I’ve got here and it has wonderful elegant arching stems. It makes a really good cut flower and it also makes an elegant addition to any border. Try and plant it somewhere about middling in the border cause it’s a little anamorphous see-through so you can see plants behind it, so it sort of fills the front of the border in.

And at the end of the summer into the early autumn as it’s dying down, the foliage also goes a wonderful buttery yellow, so you get two seasons out of this plant.

Another example of the Lily-of-the-Valley family is Disporum cantoniense. It’s the giant of the race and can get well over two metres tall. At this time of the year it has these fabulous little yellow flowers on these wonderful dark canes and everybody that sees it in my garden just has to know what it is.

Disporum cantoniense is one of the evergreen representatives of the family and as such it will flower during the spring, it’ll produce its little black berries and then the stems will stay up, all though the winter. But because they won’t flower again next year, and because we do want to see those beautiful asparagus-like spears, then we have to prune those stems out. And to do that, you have to get right down into the base of the plant and cut right down at ground level to show off those new canes.

So believe it or not, in about a fortnight’s time, I’m going to have those wonderful, elegant arching canes with little lemon bells. So do remember that when you get down there that you have to be really careful not to damage the new canes when you’re pruning out the old.

And speaking of pruning, some people get really confused when it comes to pruning natives, so Jane’s here to show you how to make it so simple that you’ll be reaching for the secateurs.

What comes to mind when one first thinks about “the Lily of the Valley” is a delicate flower that is symbolic of Easter and Weddings. It grows 15 to 30 cm tall, with only one or two leafs, and flowering stems, which have two leaves and 5 to 15 bell-shaped white flowers. The Lily of the Valley grows in the spring of the year and comes in three varieties from China and Japan, Eurasia, and the USA. Sadly, it is a poisonous woodland flowering plant that grows predominately in cooler temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere of Asia and Europe.

The Lily of the Valley is also known as Our Lady’s Tears or Mary’s Tears from Christian legends, which came about from Mary’s weeping when Jesus was being crucified. Another legend of the flower comes from the tears that Eve shed when she was expelled from the Garden of Eden with Adam. Lastly, the last legend was that of Saint Leonard of Noblac during his battles with a dragon.

It should be of no surprise that “the Lily of the Valley” is referred to in the Bible because it is very much a part of Christ and is reflected upon as a rose. As a symbol of humility “the Lily of the Valley” is a sign of Christ’s second coming, along with being a power for men to envision a better world. Although, “the Lily of the Valley” and “the Easter Lily” are often confused, they are both white and stand for humility and purity within the Christian religion. The Lily of the Valley is mentioned in the Bible 15 times and 8 of those times are in the book of the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament.

Photo via 99roots.com

According to the Bible, the Lily grows in valleys, fields, gardens, and even among thorns. It is a sweet, fragrant flower that relates to the sweetness of Jesus’ ministry especially when He gave Himself for our transgressions. The Lily is also connected to motherhood, poetry, historical traditions and mythology. Then when one thinks about the white petals of the flower, they are reminded of Mary’s virgin body and her glowing soul.

In German mythology the flower is linked to the virgin goddess of spring Ostara and symbolizes life to Pagans. Additionally, the blooming of the lily refers to the feast of Ostara. Once again, the sweet smell and whiteness of the flower remind one of humility and purity of its patron goddess.

The Lily of the Valley is also known as May Lily, May Bells, Lily Constancy, Ladder-to-Heaven, Male Lily, and Muguet. Its scientific name Majalis or Maialis means “belonging to May” and is under the dominion of Mercury astrologically. Lastly, the Lily of the Valley signifies the return of happiness and perhaps this is something that should be considered a lot more in today’s society as it is more and more difficult to find peace.

Source: sciences360.com


BACK TO genus Convallaria
PLANTOPEDIA: Browse flowering plants by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family or Origin

Subscribe now and be up to date with our latest news and updates.


How Invasive Is Lily Of the Valley: Should I Plant Lily Of The Valley Ground Cover

Is lily of the valley invasive? Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is a perennial plant that grows from stem-like underground rhizomes that spread horizontally, often with amazing speed. It also reproduces from seeds. Exactly how invasive is lily of the valley anyway?

Should I Plant Lily of the Valley?

The plant has escaped cultivation and has been placed on invasive plant lists in some states, primarily for its tendency to form large colonies that threaten native plants. It is especially happy in shady, wooded areas and doesn’t always do well in poor, dry soil or intense sunlight. In less suitable areas, it may not be invasive in the strictest sense of the word, but lily of the valley certainly has aggressive tendencies that may prompt you to think twice before planting this lovely, innocent-looking little plant.

Let’s consider the pros and cons:

  • If you have a tidy, well-ordered garden, you may want to pass on lily of the valley and choose a more well-behaved plant. If, on the other hand, you have plenty of space for the plant to spread, you may get along just fine. After all, the plant provides lovely springtime color, along with a powerful fragrance that you may either love or hate.
  • The blooms are short-lived, but the clusters of grassy, sword-shaped leaves make an attractive groundcover. Just don’t expect the clumps to remain within the boundaries of a flower bed or border. Once established, lily of the valley is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Even if you plant lily of the valley in a contained area, the rhizomes are likely to tunnel under and make a break for freedom.

Controlling Lily of the Valley

While there are no guarantees with control of this plant, the following tips may help you reign in lily of the valley’s rampant growth.

Dig the rhizomes with a shovel or spade. Sift the soil carefully with your hands, as even a tiny piece of rhizome will generate a new plant and eventually, a new colony.

If possible, cover the area with cardboard to block growth of any new rhizomes. Leave the cover in place for at least six months. Cover the area with mulch if you want to camouflage the cardboard.

Mow the plants frequently to prevent development of seeds. This is a good way to deal with lily of the valley in your lawn.

As a last resort, spray the plants with a product containing glyphosate. Keep in mind the chemical will kill any plant it touches.

Additionally, you could consider growing the plant in containers.

Note: All parts of lily of the valley are toxic and may irritate the skin. Always wear gloves when handling the rhizomes – or any part of the plant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *