By the time the merry month of May finally rolls around, spring flowers are peaking and filling the world with bright colors and sweet scents. One of the most beautiful, delicate and fragrant spring flowers?lily of the valley?is also the official birthday flower of May.
Lilly of the valley is one of the most delicate and beautiful members of the lily family and is also known as May lily, May bells, lily constancy, ladder-to-heaven, muguet (in France), and fairy ladders (in Ireland). Lily of the valley is a low-growing perennial plant that usually has two large oblong leaves and small, bell-shaped flowers that are wonderfully fragrant. In fact, it is the sweet fragrance and dainty white flowers that make lily of the valley wildly popular as wedding flowers.
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Lily of the Valley in History
Lily of the valley was native to Europe and distributed to North America and Northern Asia. It prefers shade to sun and grows as a wild flower in England. According to legend, lily of the valley flowers sprouted up from Eve’s tears after she was kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
Similarly, Christian legend tells of Mary’s tears turning to lily of the valley when she cried at the cross. Because of this reference, the flowers were known as Mary’s tears. Lily of the valley is also a symbol of humility in religious paintings and said to signify the second coming of Christ. The name “ladder to heaven” was given to the plant by medieval monks who saw observed the way the flowers grew evenly up the stalk and saw them as symbolic of steps to heaven.