Lily-of-the-Valley

Convallaria majalis

Lily-of-the-Valley is a toxic plant often found in thick colonies of Ramsons. When collecting Ramsons for consumption, great care must be taken not to mix up the two plants.

Description
Lily-of-the-Valley bears its white, bell-shaped flowers (5-13 individual blossoms) on a terminal raceme with a long stalk. Flowering between May and June, the flowers always point in the same direction and have a strong fragrance. Rising directly from the root, the two basal leaves are arranged in pairs and have a broad lanceolate shape; they have very noticeable arched leaf veins. It is nearly impossible to crush Lily-of-the-Valley leaves; their leathery texture makes them difficult to snap, too. The upper side of the leaf is dull while the underside is slightly glossy. Base of the stalk is light pink.

Distribution
Convallaria majalis is found scattered across all Austria, in all provinces. It prefers dry and semi-shade sites.

Endangerment and Conservation Status
Lily-of-the-Valley is protected in Austria.

Ecological Characteristics
As a geophyte, a plant whose buds live underground in winter, Lily-of-the-Valley has rhizomes which function both as storage receptacles and means of propagation. Its flowers are pollinated by insects, in particular by bees. Because the plant is self-fertile this often results in fructification. The small red berries develop in the summer, are eaten by animals which help disperse the seeds through droppings.

Special Characteristics
Legend has it that Lily-of-the-Valley grows in those places where the Virgin Mary shed tears on Jesus' grave. Germanic tribes dedicated this flower to Ostera, goddess of the sunrise and spring. To honour her, blossoms were thrown into ritual Easter Fires. Even if it is toxic, the intensely fragrant Lily-of-the-Valley remains a symbol of happiness and love.