Lily of the valley is a flowering plant of the Convallaria genus. (synonyms: May lily, May bells, Our Lady's tears, Convall-lily, Lily Constancy, ladder-to-Heaven, Jacob's Ladder, male lily, muguet)
This richly fragrant groundcover, flowering in late spring with plump pendant bells on an arching raceme, is a widespread native in North America, Europe and temperate Asia. Found mainly in shadowed gardens in the northern hemisphere. A less robust, shell-pink flowering form is sometimes seen in gardens.
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 name "Lily of the Valley" is possibly of Biblical origin; it is mentioned directly in Song of Songs 2:1, although the exact botanical reference of the Hebrew word "shoshana" (usually translated "lily") remains uncertain. 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.
By tradition, Lily of the Valley is sold in France in the streets on May 1st. Since 1982, Lily of the valley is the national flower of Finland.