This summer, on a trip through Northern BC, I spotted a patch. ‘Turns out my untrained eye was fooled by Wild Lily of the Valley.
Good grief! Add in the ‘true’ Lily of the Valley & there are 3 plants to confuse! Let’s consider the similarities:
- they’re all perennial…
- spread by creeping rhizomes forming thick carpets…
- display clusters of white flowers in spring…
- long markings run the length of the leave from stem to tip…
- live happily in moist, shady woods…
But consider differences:
- False Lily of the Valley is a common coastal groundcover around the Pacific Rim.
- The Wild cousin grows in Northeastern BC & across much of the boreal forest.
- The original Lily of the Valley is unrelated– native to Europe, but introduced to gardens across North America.
- False Lily of the Valley, Maianthemum dilatatum, has wider leaves (dilatatum means wide). And heart-shaped.
- The Wild cousin, Maianthemum canadense, is also heart-shaped, but slightly more oblong.
- The European colonizer has oblong leaves – not heart-shaped at all.
- False Lily of the Valley has berries that start out pale with red speckles, but the speckles multiply until the berry is quite dark.
- The Wild cousin reacts much the same way.
- I’ve never noticed speckles on the European berry. It’s more of an orangey red.
- False Lily of the Valley is used for several purposes by Coastal First Nations, especially the berries.
- The Interior First Nations haven’t mentioned eating the berries.
- The European Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis, is poisonous — don’t eat any of it!
Typically I stay away from ‘poisonous’ plants, but this is an exception. Visiting deer haven’t eaten our Convallaria majalis, so I let it grow. I’d prefer to have the False Lily of the Valley in our garden, but because the locals eat it, I reckon the deer would too.