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.