Maianthemum canadense Desf.
Maianthemum canadense Desf. var. interius Fernald
Maianthemum canadense Desf. var. pubescens Gates & Ehlers
Unifolium canadense (Desf.) Greene
Canada Mayflower, False Lily-of-the-valley
Canada mayflower is a common native of Canada and the northern United States. It is also called false lily of the valley. It is a true lily, but so named because it differs from lily of the valley. The genus Maianthemum means “flowers in May,” although the actual bloom date depends on the climate.
Identification: These plants are up to 3-6" (7.6-15 cm) in height. They emerge early in the spring, poking through pine needles, first as a single leaf, with one or two more leaves appearing later. They often carpet extensive areas of the forest floor. Leaves are up to 3" (7.6 cm) long, with many parallel veins. They are roughly heart-shaped. In the center, a think stalk rises, covered with a group of tightly clustered white flowers. The flowers look a bit like tiny pin-cushions, with stamens seemingly pointing in all directions. If you look closely, flowers consist of four parts. Each flower is less than ¼" (6.3 mm) in diameter. Fruit is a cluster of berries, hard, green or bronze-colored, with red-brown dots, ¹/₁₆-³/₁₆" (3-5 mm) in diameter. They become dull red and soft, and contain two seeds.
It is pretty hard to confuse Canada mayflower (also called false lily of the valley) and ”real” lily of the valley:
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|Plant||3-6" (7.6-15 cm) high||6-12" (15-30 cm) high|
|Leaves||One to three leaves, heart-shaped, 2-5" (5-12 cm) long × 1-2" (2.5-5 cm) wide.|
|Fruit||Berries are orange-red, ⅛-¼" (5-7 mm) in diameter.|
USDA Zones: 3-8
|Habitats||Rich woods, damp mossy woods, in partial shade||Shaded forest floors in temperate regions|
Maianthemum canadense at Illinois Wildflowers
Maianthemum canadense on Earl J.S. Rook's Flora, Fauna, Earth, and Sky ... The Natural History of the Northwoods
Maianthemum canadense on Erv Evans' site at the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Maianthemum canadense on BorealForest.org
Maianthemum canadense at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Maianthemum canadense at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
Maianthemum canadense at Minnesota Wildflowers
Maianthemum canadense on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database
Maianthemum canadense on eFloras
Maianthemum canadense description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 12 Oct 2018.