Are Lily Of The Valley Plants Poisonous?

Convallaria majalis (kon-vuh-LAIR-ee-uh maj-AY-liss) is one of the most popular garden plants out there.

Despite being a member of the Lillaceae family, it’s not a true lily and is best known by the common name lily of the valley.

Lily of the valley flowers, blooming Convallaria majalis white flowers, spring bloomer, up-close
ekina1-DepositPhotos

The plant has sweet-smelling bell-shaped white flowers that have also earned it the nicknames Mary’s tears, May bells, and Our Lady’s tears for its extensive use during Easter.

Lily of the valley is also a popular perfume scent.

It was also a popular perennial for herbal medicine, bearing the Medieval name glovewort due to its use in salves to ease sore hands.

It became popular in the United States and other parts of North America for its scent and use as a shade-loving ground cover.

The use of this plant in weddings also became popular after it was included in the bouquets of many British Royals.

According to the Language of Flowers, it is a symbol of a return to happiness.

However, lily of the valley also has a long-standing association with death, and for very good reason. 

Is The Lily Of The Valley Plant Poisonous or Toxic?

Lily of the valley is one of the most poisonous plants to be found in the average garden, with all parts having some degree of toxicity.

There are over 38 known cardiac glycosides present which can prove harmful or even fatal if ingested.

These glycosides include convallarin, convallatoxin, convallamarin, saponins, and other substances, some of which have currently unknown effects on the body.

Cardenolides are present in the red berries and have a digitalis-like effect on the heart.

While some of these substances have been purified from foxglove and are used in modern medicine, the huge number of different types in this lily make it difficult to purify the beneficial ones.

Only two leaves will cause a drop in blood pressure, slowed heart rate, and heart failure in children and pets.

It has also been known to cause mild to severe dermatitis in some individuals.

What Parts Of The Lily Of The Valley Plant Are Poisonous or Toxic?

All parts of the plant are toxic, with the biggest concentration being found in the seeds and roots.

There are enough toxins in the leaves to kill a child, and the berries, flowers, and stems contain additional toxins.

The sap may cause dermatitis in some individuals, ranging from mild to severe symptoms.

While the plant won’t cause kidney failure in pets as with many other toxic plants, the irregular heartbeat and effects on the nervous system can still prove fatal.

What Are The Symptoms Of Poisoning?

The various toxins within Convallaria majalis have a range of effects, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Burning sensations
  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive salivating
  • Headaches
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Irregular or slow pulse
  • Itchiness or rash (as a contact symptom)
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Stomach ache
  • Swelling
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

In the most severe cases, ingestion can be fatal.

As there are so many potential toxins in the plant, it can be very difficult to treat lily poisoning.

It’s vital to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect a loved one has consumed lily of the valley for the greatest chance of recovery.

If treated in time, symptoms may persist for up to three days and will require a hospital stay.

Common emergency room treatments include use of activated charcoal, IV fluids, and antitoxins.

In severe cases, the patient may require a temporary pacemaker or other assistance machines.

How To Protect Yourself While Handling The Lily Of The Valley Plant

This plant is essentially harmless in gardens where there are no children or pets present. But you may wish to remove them to avoid the risks of your loved ones snacking on the berries or flowers.

You should always wash your hands after coming in direct contact with the plant and wear gloves or protective clothing if you plan on pruning or otherwise exposing yourself to the sap.

Never burn lily of the valley, as the fumes are also harmful.

Recommended Reading

JOIN Our FREE Plant Care Newsletter 

By entering your email address you agree to receive a daily email newsletter from Plant Care Today. We'll respect your privacy and unsubscribe at any time.