Common Name
Lily of the valley
Botanic Name
Convallaria majalis L.
Plant Family
Moist, rich soils of shaded areas
Native to Europe. Introduced into North America where it has naturalized in some areas. Lily of the valley is hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
Animals Affected
All animals including people.
Lily of the valley
Toxic Principle
At least 38 cardenolides have been isolated from Convallaria majalis. Also present are various saponins. All parts of the plant are poisonous, with the greatest concentration of cardenolides being in the roots. The attractive red berries are the commonest source of poisoning in children. The cardenolides have a digitalis-like activity, causing cardiac conduction disturbances.
Convallaria majalis is a popular perennial garden plant originating from Europe, and North America. It grows in dense colonies from a slender underground rhizome. Leaves are basal, broadly elliptic to oblong, sheathing, glabrous, and dull green. Inflorescences are terminal one-sided racemes, with 5-18 white flowers, each with 6 fused, recurved petals. Some cultivars have, pale pink flowers, and variegated leaves The flowers are strongly perfumed. Fruits are red berries with numerous seeds.
Vomiting and diarrhea
Depending on how long it has been since the plant was eaten, induction of vomiting, gastric lavage, or administration of activated charcoal is indicated. Cathartics may also be used to help eliminate the plant rapidly from the digestive system. Serum potassium levels should be closely monitored and appropriate intravenous fluid therapy initiated as necessary. Phenytoin, as an anti-arrhythmic drug effective against supraventricular and ventricular arrhythmias can be used as necessary. Since the effects of the Convallaria cardenolides a very similar to those of digitalis, the use of commercially available digitalis antibody (Digibind - Burroughs Wellcome) may be a beneficial in counteracting the effects on the cardenolides.
Cardiovascular system
As with digitalis poisoning, clinical signs can vary from vomiting and diarrhea, to cardiac arrhythmias and death. Postmortem findings are usually not specific and a diagnosis is often made by finding the plant parts in the digestive system.
At post mortem, the berries and leaves may be found in the stomach.
Special Notes
Lily of the valley is a common garden plant prized for its perfumed white flowers, and is an attractive groundcover. It can also be grown as a potted plant. The attractive, sweet-tasting, red berries are an attraction to children and not infrequently cause poisoning when ingested. Relatively few cases of animal poisoning from lily of the valley have been reported. The most frequent poisoning scenario would be the ingestion of the plant contaminating lawn clippings.
Convallaria majalis ripe berries