Lily-of-the-valley

Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majallis). Photo: Hannu Holmberg

Finland's national flower is the lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majallis), which grows in woodlands in all but the northernmost parts of the country.

Rows of dainty white bell-shaped flowers blossom in late May or June above the carpets of dark green leaves on the forest floor. In spite of their flowers' pleasant appearance and scent, lily-of-the-valley plants and their bright reddish berries are poisonous to humans - if not to birds.

The lily-of-the-valley is associated with several legends around the world. It is sometimes known as Our Lady's tears, since the tears shed by Mary at Jesus' crucifixion are said to have turned to lilies-of-the-valley. Another myth describes how the flowers sprang from the blood of St Leonard during his struggle with a ferocious dragon.