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Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Cressler, Alan

Maianthemum canadense

Maianthemum canadense Desf.

Canada Mayflower, False Lily-of-the-valley

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Synonym(s): Maianthemum canadense var. interius, Maianthemum canadense var. pubescens, Unifolium canadense

USDA Symbol: MACA4

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

The short, often zigzag stem has a small, dense, cluster of tiny, white, star-shaped flowers at its top and 1-3 ovate leaves. A low plant, only 4-10 in. tall, False Lily-of-the-valley blankets woodlands with its two shiny, oval leaves. The tiny white flowers are held in upright clusters on separate, delicate stems. The fruit is a small, pale red berry. The Latin name, Maianthemum, means "May blossom" - an appropriate name because the plant flowers in May.

This common forest herb spreads by rhizomes and frequently forms carpet-like colonies. An unusual member of the Lily Family, it has only 2 petals, 2 sepals, and 4 stamens instead of the usual 3-3-6 pattern. A somewhat similar plant, Three-leaved Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum trifolium), usually has 3 elliptic leaves which taper at the base and white floral parts in a 6-pointed, star-like pattern. It is found in wet, boggy, or mossy areas from New Jersey west to Minnesota and north into Canada.


From the Image Gallery

27 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 10 inches tall.
Fruit: Red

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun


USA: CT , DC , DE , GA , IA , IL , IN , KY , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , VA , VT , WI , WV , WY
Canada: MB , NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: Lab. to Man. & Carter Co., MT, s. to DE, PA, upland GA & TN, IN, n.e. IA & WY
Native Habitat: Deciduous & mixed woods; floodplains; bog margins

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Moist to mesic, humus-rich soils.
Conditions Comments: A useful woodsgarden plant which increases rapidly to form an extensive ground cover. A wintercover of leaves or needles should be provided. Slowly spreads to form a colony. Pale red fruit in fall. (Ontario Native Plants 2002)


Use Medicinal: In folklore, the root may have been used as a good luck charm. Native Americans are reported to have used the plant for headache and sore throats (Andy Fyon)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds


Description: In the fall, after leaves have yellowed, divide the rhizomes into 2 in. pieces. Set 6 in. apart, 1/2 in. deep, and mulch. To propagate by seed, collect the fruits in summer, separate the pulp and plant immediately outdoors, 1/3 in. deep.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Maianthemum canadense in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Maianthemum canadense in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Maianthemum canadense


Record Modified: 2023-02-17
Research By: TWC Staff

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