Lily-Of-The-Valley: Not as Innocent as You Thought

Lily-Of-The-ValleyThe lily-of-the-valley are in full bloom. I have to admit, if there ever was a plant that could pass for being fake, lily-of-the-valley is it. No other flower I have ever grown looks and feels so much like plastic as does the stem and flowers of a lily-of-the-valley.

That is not to say that it is not a lovely flower. For many gardeners, lily-of the valley is the bane and bonus of the woodland garden in spring. On one hand, no other spring flower spreads as well or as fast as dear lily-of-the-valley. On the other hand, no other spring flower spreads as well or as fast as damn lily-of-the-valley.

It can withstand crappy soil, drought and damp, but put it anywhere but shade and the plant will die. They are technically native to Asia and Europe but have managed to make themselves quite at home nearly the world over.

Various legends are tied to lily-of-the-valley. It is said that it is the blood of St. Leonard after he slew a dragon, that they are the tears of the Mother Mary and yet others say that the very smell of this flower drives nightingales into a sexual frenzy.

Not quite sure why it was just nightingales in the legend as scientists actually proved that human sperm are excited by the smell of lily-of-the-valley. You read right people, not only can sperm smell, they like the smell of lily-of-the-valley. I don’t make this stuff up. I simply report it. You can make the perfume decisions later.

Technically, lily-of-the-valley is a poisonous plant. Of course that little fact has never stopped the herbalist of the world from trying to use it to cure something. Originally thought to cure a weak brain, in the modern era, low doses have been used to help with weak hearts. One has to wonder if that is somehow tied to the whole sperm thing.

For such an innocent looking little flower, lily-of-the-valley is certainly has an interesting biology. Maybe the fact that it looks like it is made of plastic is not an accident. Lurking in the shadows, exciting sperm, quickening hearts, they are like the floral version of a fetish queen.

22 thoughts on “Lily-Of-The-Valley: Not as Innocent as You Thought
  1. I just blogged some lily of the valley today too! I love them!

    I see you have Cleveland weather on here. Are you in the Cleveland area? I belong to a group of artists on Etsy called Cleveland Handmade.


  2. What a raunchy post! But it has given me some ideas for my own heavily shaded bits of garden.


  3. Speaking as sperm producer, I do like the scent of lily-of-the-valley in small quantities, but do hate its invasive qualities. Although if it really does help with weak brains, I may have to plant more.


  4. mark barrera on

    my trshy neighbors front yard is a mess, but it’s ringed with LOTV..what a great scent, almost like Lilac as a Spring Herald and as memory stoking as a school teachers perfume.


  5. LOL–great post–very informative and funny. Now…off to plant some lily-of-the-valley!
    Smiles, Karen


  6. Lily of the Valley is one plant I can not seem to grow. I think it gets too warm here too fast, or I’ve just not found it’s “magic spot” in my garden.


  7. Lily-of-the-Valley is one of the titles of God in the Bible!

    My Mama just gave me a stalk the other day… it still smells good, even after plucking!


  8. Dianne on

    I just love your blog, Hannah. Living just south of Cleveland (in the secondary snowbelt) and working on the west side, I figure you’ll always tell it like it is, and make me laugh as you do it. I’m surprised that you haven’t had a comment or two about our frigid spring and what it’s doing (or not doing) to your garden. Poor little tomatoes must be looking for some warmth. With a wind chill of 45 degrees at noon on the 21st of May, perhaps you’ll want to address this issue in next week’s blog?


  9. Kristin on

    My in-laws just gave us some of this lovely-smelling plant to transplant from the Cleveland area to our house in Dayton. We love it!


  10. Hey… how to I look up the types of flowers and what they mean? I want to see what my SILs Hydrenga(sp) means…

    PS I just tore out some LotV along side my house… I got sick of looking at the brown dried leaves last summer/fall.


  11. Hello Hanna,

    Your “flower type test” got me to your site. (I kept wondering why all these garden bloggers were daffodils.)

    So, two questions about lily of the valley:

    1) If it’s so easy to propagate, how come it’s so expensive (relatively speaking) to buy?

    2) If it’s so easy to propagate, why does it die on me?

    Thanks for a fun blog.


  12. LOTV is a great dig and share plant. My mother gave me some to plant in my garden when my wife and I bought our first house 2 years ago. She recieved it from her father many years before that.

    I appreciate the sexual insights into the plant, though I find them quite amusing, I’m not sure I will share the sperm factoid with my mother. I worry that the thought might taint her nostalgic love for the plant.


  13. amanda on

    Invasive- you’ve got it. Mine has just finished blooming (i’m in DC) and I’ve been planning to dig up a bunch and give to a friend. I’m going to print your blog to go along with- what fun to read in the card!


  14. “White coral bells, upon a slender stalk
    Lilies of the valley by my garden walk
    Oh, don’t you wish that you ould hear them ring?
    That will only happen when the fairies sing!”

    –from a gardener/ former music teacher


    JonathanL Reply:

    That song has a variation which is the one my mother and her friend used to sing in a round as a lulliby when I was young – it makes an even better round if you combine the two versions. The first person sings your version and then as soon as the first line finishes, the second begin the second round with my version. Then it gives the effect of a conversation – not a mere repetition:
    “White coral bells, upon a slender stalk
    Lilies of the valley by my garden walk
    Oh, how I wish that I could hear them ring
    That will only happen when the fairies sing!”


  15. Hm, I’ve sung that round forever. Never thought of it as a possible metaphor for reproduction…but after all, this is the natural world.


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