Convallaria majalis L.—Lily-of-the-valley
FAMILY: Liliaceae—the Lily Family (see Amianthium)
PHENOLOGY: Lily-of-the-valley flowers in May.
DISTRIBUTION: This cultivated plant frequently persists around foundations and is naturalized in some areas.
PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: The familiar lily-of-the-valley produces a one-sided flowering stalk of fragrant, white, nodding, bell-shaped flowers. The fruits ripen into red berries approximately I cm in diameter.
POISONOUS PARTS: All parts including pips (underground structures), flowers, fruits, and leaves are poisonous.
SYMPTOMS: No reliable reports of livestock losses exist in the literature. There is, however, laboratory-confirmed toxicity. The plant has digitalis-like action (see Digitalis), including heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and gastrointestinal upset.
POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: More than 20 cardiac glycosides, including convallarin and convallamarin, are known to be produced by this plant.
CONFUSED TAXA: Plants are distinct enough not to be readily misidentified.
SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Potentially all; livestock and humans are susceptible to the toxins; a report of toxicity to fowl is undocumented.
OF INTEREST: The drug, convallatoxin, from the blossoms, is used as a cardiotonic. The dried rhizome, known as Convallaria root, has also been used as a cardiotonic and diuretic. In veterinary science it has been used as a diuretic and cardiac stimulant.