General – a perennial from slender, branched, creeping rhizomes; stems single, erect, 5 – 25 cm tall, hairy at least above.
Wild Lily-of-the-Valley Leaves – alternate, 1 – 3 on flowering stem; broadly heart-shaped to oval, 2 – 8 cm long, pointed at tip, somewhat hairy; short stalked or stalkless; 1 long-stalked leaf at stem base.
Flowers – in clusters at stem tips; white, 4 – 6 mm wide, 4-parted (unlike most of the lily family); appearing in early-summer.
Fruit – berries, 3 – 5 mm wide; hard, green, mottled with brown; become red and soft; two-seeded; ripening in mid-summer.
Moist, rich to dry, often sandy woods and clearings; widespread across much of our region, from Manitoba to southwestern N.W.T. and northeastern B.C.
The genus name is derived from the Latin maius, ‘May’, and anthemon, ‘flower’, referring to the flowering time of these plants (though northern plants may bloom much later). The species name, canadense, indicates that this species was first identified in Canada. It is called ‘wild lily-of-the-valley’ because its leaves resemble those of lily-of-the-valley, Convallaria majalis, a European species.
Although the berries are edible, they tend to be bitter and may induce diarrhea.