Herbs, perennial, scapose, from slender, branched rhizomes with upright buds (pips); forming colonies. Leaves 2-3, basal, erect, sheathing, petiolate; petiole erect, slender; blade oblong to widely elliptic, glabrous, apex acute to acuminate. Scape arising basally. Inflorescences racemose, 5-15-flowered, bracteate; raceme 1-sided, 1-3 dm; bracts subtending pedicel. Flowers deciduous, nodding, very fragrant; perianth globose-campanulate; tepals almost completely connate, distinct lobes outwardly recurved; stamens 6, included, attached at perianth tube base; anthers oblong to lanceolate, introrse; ovary superior, 3-locular, syncarpous, ovules 4-8 per locule; septal grooves absent; style included, connate, straight; stigmas weakly 3-lobed to capitate; pedicel recurved, filiform. Fruits baccate, orangish red, globose, pulpy. Seeds yellow to light brown, subglobose to angled, smooth. x = 19. As described here, Convallaria may be viewed as monotypic with three (or more) isolated infraspecific taxa, or else as three morphologically similar but isolated species (B. E. Streveler 1966). Our native taxon, Convallaria majalis var. montana, is more closely related to that in eastern Asia, var. keiskei (Miquel) Makino (= C. keiskei Miquel), than to that of western Europe, var. majalis (M. L. Fernald 1928c, 1944c). While the genus is well known for its sweet fragrance, potential poisonings are a concern due to the more than 38 cardenolide glycosides (G. E. Burrows and R. J. Tyrl 2001), including convallatoxin, found throughout these ornamentals (W. H. Lewis and M. P. F. Elvin-Lewis 1977).
Fls perfect; tep united into a globose- campanulate perianth with 6 short recurved lobes; stamens 6; filaments short, inserted on the perianth near its base; ovary with several ovules in each of the 3 locules; style straight, included; stigma scarcely lobed; fr a many-seeded berry; rhizomatous herb, the short stem bearing a few lfless sheaths and 2 or 3 broad lvs, the scape terminating in a bracteate raceme. Monotypic.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.