It isn’t a Lily and this isn’t a Valley, but…


In a shady spot above our creek, not far from the base of a rotting old stump, a fragrant patch of Lily-of-the-Valley is spreading into the moss and ferns.

When we first moved here, I discovered a few struggling plants smothered under the ivy that had been planted as a ground cover. Taking pity on it, I dug up chunks and moved them to the other end of the yard, under the trees in a bare spot where nothing else would grow.

Lily of the Valley

It’s taken several years, but the nodding little white bells have finally formed a  tidy patch that covers the parched clay. I may have unleashed a monster, however, as, now that it’s established, it seems to be spreading a little faster every year.

Since it’s not a Lily, and our property is nothing like a valley, I was curious enough about its name to do some research. I’ve discovered the demure little flower, often considered as a symbol of humility in religious paintings, and sometimes added to wedding bouquets, is not as innocent as one might think.

“All parts of the plant are highly poisonous, including the red berries which may be attractive to children. If ingested—even in small amounts—the plant can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, and a reduced heart rate. Roughly 38 different cardiac glycosides (cardenolides) have been found in the plant.” *

All in all, I’d say it’s totally misnamed!

“The flower is also known as Our Lady’s Tears or Mary’s Tears from Christian legends that say it sprang from the weeping of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus. Other etiologies have its coming into being from Eve’s tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden.” *

I’ve never heard of either ‘legend’, but I suppose with a  l o n g  stretch of imagination the tiny white drooping blossoms could resemble tears.

Now that I know more about the plant, it’s tempting to dig it all out again, but I don’t think anything else will grow quite as well in that spot. Fortunately it isn’t a location where either pets or children wander unsupervised, so I’m not too worried about their poisonous aspect, and they are rather attractive in a delicate sort of way.

Naming plants must be a challenging exercise. I wouldn’t like having to dream up so many distinctive names. Coming up with titles for my articles and novels is hard enough for me. Google “choosing titles for stories” and we get over 12,000,000 results. Some articles are helpful — here are two (here and here) that I found interesting — but in the end we still have to do the work to find our own perfect title. At least we don’t have to worry about our choices being poisonous. Then again, some of us write poison pen fiction, don’t we? Oops!

How do you decide what your title(s) will be?

* Wikipedia

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