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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

May Flower Lore

May Flower Lore

Flowers, perhaps more than any other part of the natural world, are fascinating because of the many layers of meaning people have shrouded them in throughout history.

There is a whole sub-category of etiquette surrounding which flowers are appropriate to give at what times, and to whom. The unending rules surrounding something so simple as a flower can be dizzying.

Another aspect of flower lore concerns the designated flowers for each month of the year. May’s official flower is the lily of the valley, a lovely plant consisting of a stem covered in delicate little “bells” hanging downward. Their unique shape led them to be called “fairy bells” in Celtic cultures. It was believed that only fairies could hear them ring.

The flower’s association with the month of May comes in part from a bit of traditional lore that nightingales won’t sing until the lily of the valley blooms each May.

The plant takes its name common from a passage in the Biblical Song of Solomon, which reads, “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley.” It was probably named because it tends to grow in valleys.

This is not the flower’s only religious association. A popular nickname for lily of the valley is “Our Lady’s Tears.” The plant’s downcast posture reminds some of teardrops, in the same way a weeping willow’s sweeping branches do. Those of a poetic mindset say the plant is a reminder of the Virgin Mary’s tears at the foot of the cross. Others say the tears were Eve’s, after being cast out of Eden.

If you were to eat a lily of the valley, the tears would likely be yours, because the plant is highly toxic. Like many toxins in nature, the lily of the valley also has medicinal properties, and extracts of the plant have been used to treat heart disease.

It’s probably best to leave the treatment to the doctors, though, and just enjoy this beautiful flower while it lasts. Happy May!

12 comments

1 Rose Kail { 05.03.15 at 5:37 pm }

Muguet des bois

2 Donny { 05.03.15 at 12:11 pm }

The picture is not a Mayflower. That is Lilly of the Valley. If you would like to see a Mayflower go here.

http://www.communitygardenclubofcohasset.org/conservation/

3 Kathy M { 05.01.15 at 4:09 pm }

These are my very favorite flowers. Unfortunately, I live in AZ in the desert & they don’t grow here. Lived in Nebraska where they grew like crazy. Miss them so much.

4 Donna Dareing { 05.01.15 at 3:23 pm }

My favorite is yellow rose

5 Donna Dareing { 05.01.15 at 3:22 pm }

My favorite flower is yellow rose

6 lela { 05.01.15 at 12:57 pm }

lilies can kill your pets (cats and dogs) its one of the most poisonous plants to animals. this saddens me because my birth flower is lily of the valley. i love all kinds of lilies but i wont grow them out of respect for my animals.

7 Caroline { 05.01.15 at 10:55 am }

I love Lily of the Valley, their scent is so clean and unique, mine are in full bloom now!

8 Wendy Wetzel { 05.01.15 at 9:00 am }

Happy May Day ! I love these tiny flowers, they are so pretty :)

9 Kathy { 05.01.15 at 8:58 am }

My birth flower. I have always loved Lilies of the Valley. My grandmother had them around her house and now I do too.

10 Julie Hummel { 05.01.15 at 7:37 am }

I’ve always heard that the lily of the valley stood for the return of happiness. Such a happy little flower…I carried them in my wedding bouquet. :)

11 Elfi { 05.07.13 at 1:53 pm }

In Germany, the flower is called “Maigloeckchen” which translates into May belles. I always thought that the name had more to do with the month it blooms in and the shape of the flowerettes. And no, I never found it in valleys but rather sunny spots in the forest.

12 Carol { 05.17.11 at 1:13 am }

my favorite flower! my mom grew them in her garden!

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