MAY - Lily of the Valley
The lily of the valley is a low-growing perennial plant that usually has two large oblong leaves and small fragrant nodding bell-shaped flowers. Lily of the valley is one of the most delicate and beautiful of the lily family. The flowers are normally white, although occasionally you can find some with a pink hue to them. Native to Europe and cultivated throughout North America.
The sweet, bee-attracting flowers appear in May; folk belief says plant tomatoes when you see them appear.
It also means "the return of happiness" which is the reason why it is often used as decorations in weddings.
Its small stature and shade-loving disposition have made it a natural symbol of humility.
In Germanic mythology lilies are associated with the virgin goddess of spring Ostara. The lily symbolizes life to Pagans. The sweet fragrance and whiteness of the flower symoblize the humility and purity of its patron goddess. The blooming of lily of the valley flower heralds the feast of Ostara.
The blossoms were also favored by great beauties including Jacqueline Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn.
Roman/Greek: This plant is connected with Maia, the oldest of the Seven Sisters and the goddess of growth, increase, fields, and spring. She and Zeus are the parents of Hermes (Mercury), and so she is the grandmother of magic, which was invented by her son Hermes.
Biblical: The flower is also known as Our Lady's tears, since, according to legend, the lily of the valley came into being from Eve's tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden.
The name "lily of the valley" is also used in some English translations of the Bible in Song of Solomon 2:1
Christian Symbolism: Lilies of the valley appear in several Christian Bible stories. It is said that lilies of the valley grew from the spot where Mary's tears hit the ground at the foot of the cross.
According to another legend, lilies of the valley also sprang from the blood of Saint Leonard, who was a brave fighter and a close friend of King Clovis of 6th century France (of the iris legend). Leonard found life at court unappealing and preferred to live in the woods as a recluse among trees and flowers communing with God. The dragon was not happy having to share his woods with St. Leonard, and in a fierce three day battle which ensued, a lily of the valley appeared wherever St. Leonard's bloods that fell.
It is sometimes called Fairy Cups, because the flowers look like cups the fairies have hung up while dancing. The flowers are said to ring when fairies sing and to form ladders fairies use to reach reeds from which they weave their cradles.
According to folklore, this plant blooms on the grave of someone who was executed for a crime they did not commit.
It is thought that planting them in the garden will protect the home from ghosts and evil spirits.
In Germany and Scandinavian countries, it was thought to be good luck to go to the woods and pick “Virgin's tears” in the spring.
The Dutch often plant the pips of lily of the valley in the first garden the couple owns-- Each time the plants bloom, year after year, the couple is supposed to celebrate the renewal of their love.
National Flower of Finland.
Frats/Sororities: Alpha Delta Phi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Kappa Sigma, Delta Omicron, Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, and Alpha Phi.
May Day: Lily of the valley is the common flower and symbol used to celebrate May Day in France and throughout Europe on May 1 each year. May Day is a bank or public holiday in many European countries and honors a range of influences from Anglo-Saxon and Christian traditions as well as the beginning of summer. Bunches of lilies were sold in the streets in some cities and individual sprigs of the flower were worn on jacket and coat lapels.
It is important to note that all parts of the lily-of-the-valley are poisonous and is dangerous if ingested.
Throughout time, the Lily of the valley has been used in herbal medicine as a poison antidote, for the heart and epilepsy. The plant contains various toxins that stimulate the heart and, if ingested in large quantities, can cause death. One of the most active natural substances affecting the heart is convallotoxin. It causes slow, irregular pulse rates and can cause heart failure. The plant also contains saponins which cause gastrointestinal poisoning. Teas and ointments from this plant are used for burns, fever and as a sedative and diuretic.
The leaves have been historically used to produce green dye.
To start a patch of the fragrant flowers, purchase commercially grown pips or take a division from an established clump.
Plant as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.
The first year, the plants may do little, but by the second year, they will produce flowers.
The tough underground roots spread quickly and the plants can become invasive in some situations.
Lily of the valley is a woodland plant that likes moist soil in dappled shade
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