American Lily-of-the-Valley

Convallaria majuscula

I never knew that Lily of the Valley grows wild in the Appalachian Mountains! The form that most of us know, the garden variety, was imported from Europe.  But this one is a few degrees different, and it is called American Lily-of-the-Valley.

First of all, this plant is not as likely to be found in dense colonies. The few times I’ve come across it, there were just a couple of plants at a time in a particular area, sort of the way you find orchids locally. The leaves of the plant are taller than the garden variety too (10-12 inches), and the flowering stems are shorter. It is harder to see the flowers of the native form, because they sit well below most of the leaf mass. That said, the white, bell-shaped flowers are just as pretty, and fragrant, as the garden cultivar!

This is a perennial plant that occurs in a limited range in the mid-Atlantic . It blooms between May and June.  Be aware that it is not uncommon to find the escaped, cultivated form in the woods too, especially around old home sites. Again, the cultivated form (Convallaria majalis) has shorter leaves (6 inches) and the flowers bloom on longer stems that are held above the leaves.

Don’t try eating the beautiful leaves of either form! They are poisonous!

Some people call the Canada Mayflower by the name Wild Lily-of-the-Valley.  Check it out for comparison.

Here’s the American Lily-of-the-Valley:

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