Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Convallaria majalis, commonly known as the Lily of the Valley, is a flowering plant in the family Ruscaceae, the sole member of the genus Convallaria. It is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia, Europe and North America. It is a herbaceous perennial plant forming extensive colonies spreading by underground roots, and sending up numerous stems each spring. The stems grow to 15-30 cm tall, with two leaves 10-25 cm long, and a raceme of 5-15 flowers on the stem apex. The flowers are white (rarely pink), bell-shaped, 5-10 mm diameter, and sweetly scented; flowering is in late spring. The fruit is a small red berry 5-7 mm diameter.
It is a popular garden plant, grown for the scented flowers.
The leaves and flowers contain cardiac glycosides that have been used in medicine for centuries. In overdose preparations can be poisonous; pets and children can be harmed by eating Lily of the Valley.
The flower is also known as Our Lady's tears since, according to legend, the tears Mary shed at the cross turned to Lilies of the Valley. According to another legend, Lilies of the Valley also sprang from the blood of St. Leonard during his battle with the dragon. Other names include May Lily, May Bells, Lily Constancy, Ladder-to-Heaven, Male Lily and Muguet.
The name "Lily of the Valley" is also used in some English translations of the Bible in Song of Songs 2:1, although whether the Hebrew word "shoshana" originally used there refers to this species or not is uncertain.
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