Wild Lily-Of-The-Valley – Maianthemum Canadense: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Mayflower of Wild Plants

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In Ojibwe, agoñgosî’ mînûn meaning chipmunk berries, wild lily-of-the-valley is not a lily. Wild lily-of-the-valley is of the Asparagaceae family (as of 2016). It’s an edible and medicinal plant, but be sure not to confuse it with true lily-of-the-valley! Another lookalike to be ware of is 3-leaved Solomon’s seal.

Wild Lily-Of-The-Valley - Maianthemum Canadense
Wild Lily-Of-The-Valley – Maianthemum Canadense

Chipmunks are cute, but the alternative name for wild lily-of-the-valley that excites me most is “frog berry”. So named because frogs apparently eat the berries. I have a hard time believing this! And I could not find multiple sources telling this tale. Hmmm. Frogs are something I have many of, and patience too, so I can see myself laid out by these mayflowers and waiting and watching to catch a frog berry mukbang on video. We’ll see.

It’s easy enough to find around here, carpeting many woods. I often see it along roadsides when I hike the side roads.

Edible Uses of Wild Lily-Of-The-Valley

The bitter berries are edible and may have a laxative effect. But again, don’t confuse the plant with 3-leaved Solomon’s seal or true lily of the valley. 3-Leaved for one is extremely poisonous – its berries can cause paralysis and death. True lily of the valley could take a person out too. Definitely intensely study these plants to know the differences. This is another one for advanced foragers who’ve become botanists in their own right. For intermediate foragers, False Solomon’s seal has a similar berry and is easier to ID.

If you have a certain ID, new folded leaves can be boiled and eaten as greens. And mayflower berries can be picked spotted and unripe and stored until red and soft. They are used in cakes among other dishes, and of course in jams and jellies. But you may not find them very palatable and leaving them for the birds is always a great idea.

Wild Lily-Of-The-Valley - Maianthemum Canadense
Wild Lily-Of-The-Valley – Maianthemum Canadense

Medicinal Uses of Wild Lily-Of-The-Valley

Wild lily-of-the-valley is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Integumentary

Medicinal tags include Astringent. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes typical cooling astringent use like crushed leaves applied to reduce swelling, in a concoction for cuts or wounds, as a sore throat gargle, etc. It’s a hardy plant – as long as the rhizome is untouched they should come back every year.

Another use is for headaches, but mint tea is more the go-to to remember for headaches and much easier to identify.

Alternative Uses of Mayflowers

A wonderful native plant to attract birds and more! It’s a host plant for the white-triangle tortrix moth.

Growing Maianthemum Canadense

Around Haliburton we have the acidic soil mayflowers thrive in. If you have a sun dappled/ partially shady spot in your woods with not much growing on the forest floor to compete with it, the mayflower should be able to establish and spread out. Haliburton area is primed for this plant! Here’s a list of nurseries where you may be able to find maianthemum canadense.


Multiple poisonous look-a-likes.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Ontario Nature Guide

The Path to Wild Food

Forest Plants of Central Ontario

Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants: A Historical Survey with Special Reference to the Eastern Indian Tribes

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