Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bane or Blessing


Oh the sweet smelling Lily-of-the-Valley, a blessing yes, but how can this diminutive spring flower be a bane to anyone? The fragrant little bells grow easily and come up every year. Furthermore, Lily-of-the-Valley is sold as ground cover, which means the plants will fill-in a barren place in your yard. This plant is a virtual homeowners delight. However, there is another aspect to this lovely plant. You may already know that the plant produces berries, and these berries are reportedly poisonous.

Unfortunately, I know about the toxicity problem personally. When our oldest son, Dean, was young, maybe about three or perhaps four, he came into the house to tell me that the neighborhood children had feasted on the fruit of the Lily-of-the Valley. Young Dean like the adult Dean is a source of truthfulness. So when my son said that the children were eating poison berries, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the case. Immediately, the parents of the two families were notified. Two preschool sisters were rushed to the hospital to have their stomachs pumped. The older daughter denied eating the berries in question. However, her stomach contents revealed that she had consumed a handful of the fruit. The emergency room doctor said that we should have brought Dean in for this procedure too as children of this age may not tell the truth. A fourth child had left for kindergarten, when his mother called the doctor. The doctor told her that it was too late for stomach pumping. He recommended that Mickey drink milk. The good news is that all four children are now adults in their thirties.

After this frightening life-threatening event, in fear and anger, I pulled up every single Lily-of-the-Valley plant and tossed all of these offensive plants in the trash. Those of you that have a greater understanding of gardening than me know that the next spring the hardy little plants returned even though each and every offending plant had been removed the previous autumn.

Somebody suggested to me that I could alleviate the poisonous berry problem by simply removing the dead flowers and any berries that might survive to maturity. This was wonderful advice. I now carefully remove the the dead flowers in the spring and any berries that might make it through the summer. I am grateful that the results of this episode in my young motherhood did not end tragically. However, I try to be vigilant when young children visit, and I will always, always remove the berries from this plant.



14 comments:

meno said...

I love the smell of lily of the valley.

That's quite a story about the berries though. I read a mystery story once about how someine used lily of the valley to off someone, so i knew they were poisionous.

Beccy said...

Not knowing much about gardening or plants, I didn't realise they were poisonous but they are very pretty.

gawilli said...

I have never seen berries on mine, but will look this year. What a story! Thanks for the tip. We don't have many and they are mixed in with the corn lilies, so before long they will be overgrown. Maybe that's a good thing!

willowtree said...

Hmmm, I didn't know that. But then we don't seem many Lillies of the Valley around here.

Cazzie!!! said...

Yes, lovely smell, potent mix with the berries, sadly it is this way with so many things in nature isn't it? Like my favourite fish, the Lion Fish, so gorgeous yet you could never touch it for it's poisonous spikes.

Pamela said...

I had not idea !!!!
But, I don't like the plant because it is so invasive... so we never planted it.

I saw a kid picking something off a bush and putting it into his mouth just today.

I often wonder if I should speak up or mind my own business. I didn't know if the plant was edible or not.

her indoors said...

not being a keen gardner i would not have known that this plant or any plant was poisonous, so glad you knew and acted quickly.

paddy said...

Beautiful plant, good advice.
In every gift there in contains a poison, it runs through our whole life it would seem. We have to learn through our culture what is passed on and you have done your part with this post. Thank you.
Lily-of-the-Valley was my mothers favourite plant. I can hear her words through you today.
Y;-) Paddy

ChrisB said...

My grandmother always had masses of lily of the valley and because we were forbidden to touch them they were even more fascinating. Knowing how hardy they are I got a clump from my brother and planted them a couple of years back but believe it or not they did not thrive in my garden and this is the first year we have had any bloom and then only a couple. I posted a picture in one of the fun monday posts (here

Margaret said...

The problem is that many of those poisonous berries look like edible ones. Kids don't necessarily know the difference. We have lots of berries around these parts--some that look like cranberries that aren't, faux blueberries, etc...I'm glad that it all worked out, but what a scare!!

Mimi Lenox said...

Many bloggers, including WW participants, will be flying Peace Globes in the blogosphere on Wednesday, June 6, 2007. It is BlogBlast for Peace day - the second annual event. Please consider using your Wordless Wednesday platforms on this day to participate. You can find more information about the movement at Mimi Writes or BlogBlast for Peace
http://mimiwrites.blogspot.com or http://mimilenox.blogspot.com

Thanks and peace!
Mimi

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear mjd. Oh what a story! I'm not at all a green thumb, and Australian yards (well, in Queensland) need a lot of hard work and water to even bloom a single flower! So we never had these plants, or others for that matter. Although, I did grow up thinking that pretty much every berry was poisonous unless we bought it from the shop! I guess my mum was just making sure.

JAM said...

Great story. I don't remember ever seeing this plant before. We have oleander EVERYWHERE in Florida and it's quite poisonous too. At least it doesn't produce tempting berries. I've never actually heard a first-hand story about it either.

Anyway, this adds credence to one of my thoughts on life, "It's a wonder any of us live to adulthood."

(I jumped over here from your comment on Theory Of Thought's blog)

lisa's chaos said...

I love the look and smell of these little delights but I remember vividly an episode of "Quincy" where a lady used the oil/juices from the leaves to cause her husband to have a heart attack and the poison supposedly could not be seen in tests. . . well, then it couldn't. I'm sure it could now if all that were even true. :)