How poisonous is the lily of the valley 

While almost all of us choose our garden plants based on suitability and ornamental value, hardly any decisions are based on whether these plants are toxic or not - which of course many of them are! One plant in particular where this should be considered is Convallaria majalis, the lily of the valley. So just how poisonous is the lily of the valley and should gardeners take precautions?

All parts of the lily of the valley are indeed poisonous, containing approximately thirty eight different cardiac glycosides which are highly toxic if consumed, notably slowing down the heart and causing irregular heart rhythm. However as a rule, people don't have a habit of eating the leaves, roots and stems of ornamental garden plants. That being said, the red, sweet-tasting berries are attractive and unfortunately there are cases of young children who consider them worthy of ingesting. Conversely, there are relatively few cases of animal poisoning reported.

If ingested, these cardiac glycosides can also cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. If lily of the valley poisoning is suspected then vomiting is advised even if it is not a system.  Be aware that lily of the valley toxicity can be severe and difficult to treat. If you believe that a pet or child has eaten this plant then you will need to get immediate medical advice.

That being said, handling the plant with bare hands should not cause any issues but if you are concerned then wear gloves. However if you are not happy with any risk you can remove the plant either by digging it out or by spraying it off with a suitable weedkiller.

Main image credit - By liz west from Boxborough, MA - lily of the valley, CC BY 2.0,

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