Olympic Habitat Development Study
US FOREST SERVICE

 

Station 5 -
False Lily-of-the-Valley
(Maianthemum dilatatum)
Family Liliaceae

This small pretty perennial plant has smooth, heart-shaped leaves on long stalks. The genus name for this plant literally means “Maia’s bloom”.  In Greek mythology, Maia is the eldest of the seven Pleiades nymphs and is after her that the month of May was named. This is very appropriate for false lily-of-the-valley, since it displays its delicate white flowers in May.

The fruits are berries on a stalk held above the leaves. The berries are mottled green turning to mottled brown at first and then becoming a jewel-like red in the late fall and winter.  The plant leaves decay rapidly but the plant location can be seen in the winter by the berry stalks. The berries are edible but fairly tasteless.  They were consumed by some Native American tribes but not highly regarded.  The leaves and roots were used for medicinal purposes.

False lily-of-the-valley is found in moist woods.  It can be found in fairly dark forests but develops best in filtered shade (See the Understory Tour to see how this plant responded to thinning).


 

False lily-of-the-valley inflorescence displays its delicate white flowers in May.
Ripe fruits of false lily-of-the-valley are bright red in the late fall and winter. (Image from www.pacificbulbsociety.org) False lily-of-the-valley inflorescence displays its delicate white flowers in May. The leaves are heart-shaped, shiny and broad. (Image from www.netartsbaytoday.org)
False lily-of-the-valley inflorescence.