Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for American Lily-of-the-valley - Convallaria pseudomajalis   J. Bartram
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AuthorJ. Bartram
DistributionNearly throughout the Mountains, though seemingly absent from the far southwestern corner of the state. However, it has been found farther west and southwest in TN and GA, so it ought to be present in nearly all of the NC Mountain counties. Disjunct to the Sauratown Mountains in Stokes County, in the Piedmont.

This is a Southern Appalachian species, found north to northern VA and northern WV, and south to northern GA. It is known from seven states: WV, VA, KY, TN, NC, SC, and GA.
AbundanceInfrequent to fairly common (at least locally) in most of the Mountains, but rare or very uncommon in the counties bordering SC and GA. It seems more numerous in the northern counties than farther south. Extremely rare east to Stokes County.
HabitatThis is a species of mesic to somewhat dry hardwood forests, mainly at mid- to high elevations. It favors oak forests, such as Northern Red Oak Forests, or Northern Hardwood Forests, rather than cove forests, though it can be found in such rich forested slopes. Normally it is found on upper slopes or ridgetops, as opposed to lower slopes.
PhenologyBlooms from April into June, and fruits in August.
IdentificationThis is a native species that is very similar to the well-known European taxon that is generally considered as a different species. Our native species grows to about 10-12 inches tall, with two (usually) large leaves coming off the stem near the base. The leaves, each about 9 inches long and about 3-4 inches wide, gracefully arc away from the stem. The very slender flowering stalk extends about to the middle of the leaves, and it contains about 6-10 small white flowers that dangle below the stem. The flowers are urn-shaped and about 1/3-inch across and long. The European species, generally considered as C. majalis, has a similar growth form of stem and leaves, but the flowering stem is raised higher off the ground, reaching well beyond the middle of the leaves. Also, the exotic species has smaller leaves that average about 6 inches long and about 2 inches wide. Generally speaking, one is not going to see the exotic species growing in an upland hardwood forest in the mountains, away from disturbances. American Lily-of-the-valley is quite a striking plant when seen in bloom, as the dangling white "bells" are distinct from other native species. Inexperienced people might confuse Red Ramps (Allium tricoccum) for Convallaria when in leaf, but the ramps and some other species with two large lily-like leaves have the leaves arranged basally, coming out of the ground at the same place, and not emerging above ground from a stalk. This species does not grow in dense colonies, but one can see a few dozen plants in some favored areas; C. majalis can grow in very dense stands (but almost always in a disturbed habitat).
Taxonomic CommentsThis species seems to be given a different name every 10-20 years! Many references still consider it just a variety or subspecies of the European species, and usually named as C. majalis var. montana or now as C. majalis ssp. majuscula. Most references, especially those written by people familiar with the species in life, do consider our species as native and a good species, formerly as C. montana and then as C. majuscula and now as C. pseudomajalis. What name next?

Other Common Name(s)Lily-of-the-valley (for the combined species), Appalachian Lily-of-the-valley
State RankS3
Global RankG4?
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