Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis
) is a perennial, rhizomatous plant which is often grown in gardens for its beauty and fragrant scent.
Some consider it a weed, as it can spread over a wide area in gardens and can be difficult to contain or remove. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and last about 3 weeks.
Traditionally, lily of the valley is sold in the streets of France on May 1. The flower is also known as Our Lady's tears, since, according to Christian legend, the lily of the valley came into being from Eve's tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden. It is a symbol of humility in religious painting and considered the sign of Christ's second coming. Its scientific name, majalis or maialis, means "of or belonging to May", and old astrological books place the plant under the dominion of Mercury, since Maia, the daughter of Atlas, was the mother of Mercury or Hermes.
Lily of the valley, as beautiful as it is, is also highly toxic to poultry if ingested. It contains at least 38 cardiac glycosides. Convallotoxin is one of the most active natural substances affecting the heart. It causes irregular, slow pulse rates and can cause heart failure. In addition, the plant contains saponins which cause gastrointestinal poisoning.