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May Lily

Maianthemum bifolium

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asparagaceae (Asparagus)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Gardens, riversides, waterside, woodland.

White, 4 petals
Short-stalked, cream-white flowers which appear in a cluster (raceme) at the top of the stem. Clusters contain between 8 and 20 flowers. Each flower has 4 stamens.
The fruit is a green berry, turning red later.
A perennial flower with 2 dark green, heart-shaped or oval leaves. The leaves are about 8cm across.
May Lilies are fragrant.
Other Names:
False Lily-of-the-Valley, False Solomon's Seal, Lily of the Valley, Mayflower, One-blade, One-leaf Two-leaved, Two-leaved Mayflower, Wild Lily of the Valley.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Maianthemum bifolium, also known as two-leaved mayflower or false lily-of-the-valley, is a species of herbaceous perennial plant that is native to North America and parts of Asia. The plant has a creeping habit and produces small, white, bell-shaped flowers in clusters, which bloom in the spring. The leaves are simple, broad and green, with a pair of leaves at the base of the stem. The plant prefers moist, well-drained soils and can be found in woodlands, along streams, and in other moist, shady habitats. It is often used as a ground cover in gardens and can also be used in floral arrangements.


May Lily, scientifically known as Maianthemum bifolium, is a delightful perennial herb that belongs to the lily family, Liliaceae. This plant is native to the northern hemisphere, including Europe, Asia, and North America. The May Lily plant is commonly found growing in deciduous and coniferous forests, and it typically blooms from April to June, which is how it got its common name.

Physical Characteristics of May Lily

The May Lily plant has a delicate appearance with long, slender leaves and small, delicate flowers. The leaves are usually two to four inches long and about an inch wide, with a deep green color and a glossy sheen. The flowers of the May Lily are small, bell-shaped, and white, with four to six petals. They grow in clusters of two to four, and each flower is about ⅜ of an inch long.

The May Lily plant usually grows up to eight inches tall, but in ideal conditions, it can reach up to a foot in height. It has a rhizomatous root system that helps it spread and form dense colonies.

Uses of May Lily

The May Lily plant has been used for a variety of purposes throughout history. In traditional medicine, the roots and leaves of the May Lily were used to treat a variety of ailments, including fevers, headaches, and digestive problems.

The plant's berries were also used to make a sweet syrup that was used as a natural sweetener. In addition, the May Lily has been used as a decorative plant in gardens and natural landscapes. Its delicate beauty and hardiness make it an excellent choice for shady areas, woodland gardens, and rock gardens.

Conservation of May Lily

The May Lily plant is considered an important species for forest ecosystems, as it provides food and habitat for various animals and insects. However, like many other wildflowers, the May Lily is threatened by habitat loss and destruction.

As such, it is essential to protect the May Lily and its habitat by ensuring that logging, urbanization, and other human activities do not adversely affect its growth and survival. Additionally, it is essential to avoid picking or uprooting the May Lily plant from the wild, as it can harm the plant's population.

Ecology and Distribution of May Lily

May Lily is a shade-loving plant that thrives in cool and moist environments. It is commonly found in deciduous and coniferous forests, as well as in shrublands and meadows. The plant's range extends across the northern hemisphere, including parts of Europe, Asia, and North America.

The May Lily has a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, which help the plant absorb nutrients and water from the soil. The plant's root system provides a habitat for these fungi, and in return, the fungi help the plant grow and survive.

The May Lily plant also provides a valuable source of food for various animals and insects. The plant's berries are an important food source for birds, including grouse, robins, and thrushes. The flowers attract pollinators such as bees, flies, and butterflies, which help to fertilize the plant and promote its growth.

Conservation Status of May Lily

The May Lily plant is not currently listed as a threatened or endangered species, but it is protected in some areas due to its importance to forest ecosystems. In some parts of its range, the plant's population has declined due to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human activities such as logging, urbanization, and agriculture.

To help protect the May Lily plant, it is important to conserve its habitat and limit human activities that could harm the plant's population. Additionally, gardeners and landscapers can help promote the growth of May Lily by planting it in suitable locations and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals that could harm the plant and its symbiotic fungi.

Cultural Significance of May Lily

The May Lily has been a symbol of rebirth and renewal in many cultures. In Norse mythology, the plant was associated with the goddess Ostara, who was the goddess of spring and fertility. It was believed that the plant bloomed on Ostara's birthday, which was celebrated during the spring equinox.

In some European cultures, the May Lily was associated with the Christian holiday of Easter. The plant was believed to have been the flower that bloomed when Jesus rose from the dead, and as such, it became a symbol of resurrection and new life.

In addition to its cultural significance, the May Lily has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes throughout history. The plant's roots and leaves were used to treat a variety of ailments, including fevers, headaches, and digestive problems. The berries were also used to make a sweet syrup that was used as a natural sweetener.

Gardening with May Lily

May Lily is an excellent plant for shady gardens and woodland landscapes. It prefers moist, well-drained soil and partial to full shade. The plant can be propagated by division, and it is best planted in the fall.

When planting May Lily, it is important to give the plant enough space to grow and spread. It is also important to avoid planting the plant in areas where it could be disturbed by foot traffic or other activities.

In conclusion, the May Lily is a beautiful and valuable plant that has played an important role in human culture for centuries. With its delicate appearance, traditional medicinal uses, and cultural significance, the May Lily is a plant that is worth protecting and preserving. By conserving the plant's habitat and promoting its growth in gardens and natural landscapes, we can help ensure that this valuable species continues to thrive for generations to come.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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