Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Convallaria majalis

Return of Happiness

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,---
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
Ode To A Nightingale, John Keats 1795-1821

Native to most European countries, lily of the valley is a favorite of people everywhere. It is the national flower of Finland. Often carried in bridal bouquets, lily of the valley is considered the "fifth thing" that a bride should carry (right after something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue).

This flower with its dainty white bells and unmistakable green scent is the symbol of May Day. Known as Our Lady's Tears because it grew from the tears shed by the Virgin Mary at the Cross.

Monks of northern Europe named the flower expressing its usual habitat on hillsides and in valleys as well as quoting the first lines of verse two of the Song of Songs: "I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley."

Lily of the valley has been used extensively for medicine. Several elaborate recipes exist for creating concoctions from the plant. One recipe can be found in the first chapter of Robert Lewis Stevenson's Kidnapped.

Despite its reputed powers, the stalk of the flower and the berries of this attractive appearing plant can cause severe poisoning.

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