May Birth Flowers & Meanings: Lily of the Valley & Hawthorn

May Birth Flowers & Meanings: Lily of the Valley & Hawthorn

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When May comes around, Mother's Day is usually the most important flower gifting occasion on everyone's minds (at least in Australia and the US). But let's not forget about May birthdays! 

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If you're a May baby or you know someone who is, you might be wondering, what's May's birth flower?

Like a few other months of the year (April, July and August, for example), May actually has two birth flowers instead of one: lily of the valley and hawthorn.

Let's explore each May birth flower meaning a little bit deeper...

lily of the valley may birth flower

May Birth Flower #1: Lily of the Valley

Lily of the valley is the first May birth flower we'll be delving into, starting with its meaning.

Lily of the Valley Flower Meaning

The Lily of the valley flower looks a little bit like white bells or ballerina skirts, and has a number of personal meanings.

Often these woodland bunches are considered a very feminine flower type, and as such are known to represent motherhood, chastity, good luck, sweetness, and purity.

With this symbolism and their pretty white petals, teeny tiny lilies of the valley are very popular wedding flowers, especially among royalty and celebrities. Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Miranda Kerr and Meghan Markle all used lilies of the valley in their bridal bouquets.

In floriography during the Victorian age, the lily of the valley symbolised a return to happiness. You can convey the joy in your heart by gifting this to someone you love who has come back to you.

Even if they aren't born in May, if there's a special woman in your life you'd like to show love or gratitude to, such as your sister, mother or girlfriend, this spring flower is a great way to do so. 

Lily of the Valley History & Insights

The lily of the valley flower is also known as "the tears of the Virgin Mary" or "Our Lady's Tears" in the Christian faith. It is said that after Jesus was crucified, the Virgin Mary shed tears at the foot of the cross, and that lily of the valley flowers sprouted from where they fell.

Another story tells that the lilies of the valley instead grew from where the tears of Eve fell, after she was forced to leave the Garden of Eden after sinning against God and his wishes.

Romanians also associate the flower with the shedding of tears. There's a particularly sad tale in their culture of a girl who lost her parents at a young age and that lily of the valley flowers grew from where she cried tears upon her parents' graves.

white lily of the valley may birth flower

In Medieval England the flowers had a more positive meaning. There was a “courtship” dancing tradition when celebrating the spring season. Young men placed bunches of lilies of the valley on the doorstep of the girl they most admired. If the women came to the celebration donning the flowers in their hair, supposedly they returned the man's feelings. 

Meanwhile, in Greek mythology, this May birth flower is associated with Apollo, the God of the sun. These delicate blooms originally grew close to forest floors, and it's said that Apollo grew them to give his nymphs a soft carpet to walk upon.

Are lily of the valley flowers poisonous?

The leaves, flower, and roots of lily of the valley flowers are all highly poisonous and should never be ingested. While they are safe to handle, you should always wash your hands after doing so to avoid accidentally ingesting anything harmful.

The lily of the valley is also extremely toxic to pets, including dogs and cats.

The plant is toxic because it contains glycosides, which can cause an irregular heartbeat. However, parts of the plant are sometimes used medicinally to treat a host of medical conditions, including heart problems, UTIs, kidney stones and epilepsy.

Other uses of lily of the valley flowers

In addition to its elegance and beauty, the lily of the valley is also prized for its incredible scent. It's often used in high-perfumes, including Dior's Diorissimo Eau de Parfum and Yves Saint Laurent's Opium.

Historically, the leaves of the plant were also cultivated to produce green pigment for dyes.

white lilies

Lilies vs Lilies of the Valley

While it may have lily in its name, the lily of the valley is not a "true" lily. It's one of many flowers (including calla lilies and water lilies) to use the term in its name without belonging to the lilium genus, which are the true lilies.

May Birth Flower #2: Hawthorn

Now we know about the first May birth flower's meaning and history, but what about the second?

Hawthorn Flower Meaning

Hawthorns symbolise happiness, beauty, faith, longevity, and hope, but they also hold a more magical meaning.

Some believe hawthorn trees help shelter fairies, who act as their guardians. Along with ash and oak, hawthorn is said to offer a gateway into Faerie.

With bright pinks and reds against green leaves, hawthorns are a popular floral decoration for the home. The plants are also symbols of fertility, due to their being able to produce berries, leaves, and blooms all at once.

Whether gifted for a May birthday or for another special occasion, hawthorn flowers are happy, character-filled blossoms sure to delight.

pink hawthorn may birth flower

Hawthorn Flower History & Insights

Originating in Europe, North Africa, North America and Asia, there are over 300 known species of hawthorn.

Also called the May flower, hawthorns are one of few flowers named after the month in which they bloom—at least in the northern hemisphere. However, this also means they are not actually in bloom in Australia in May, so you may have trouble finding them to gift to your May-born friends and family.

Hawthorn flowers have long been associated with paganism and magic.

They were used to celebrate Beltane (May 1st), an ancient spring festival of the Celtics. As well as being a sign of long life, these dainty blooms were a sign of love and protection in Celtic mythology.

Hawthorn trees were often used to make maypoles during medieval European festivals.

Hawthorn branches were also believed to be used by witches as magic wands, and leaving cut branches outside the home was thought to protect people from them.

white hawthorn flowers

Hawthorn Medicinal & Culinary Uses

Ever since ancient Rome, hawthorns were used as a heart tonic and to reduce inflammation.

As a non-poisonous plant, it’s no wonder it was experimented with. Some herbalists use the thorns as well as the flowers and leaves to treat cardiac arrest, blood circulation issues and stress.

Hawthorn berries are also edible and can be used to make jams, syrups, and many herbal teas or tinctures, fresh or dried flowers.

Hawthorns, or hedgerows as they are also known, are non-toxic to dogs, cats and horses, so grow them with confidence in your garden.

Send Birthday Flowers with Floraly

It's sadly true that the traditional birth flowers are based on the seasons of the northern hemisphere. This means that many birth flowers, including the May birth flowers, are not in bloom at the right time of year down under.

But if you're looking for birthday flowers for your May-born loved one, you've come to the right place.

At Floraly, we have a great range of bouquets and gifts to delight any May baby on their birthday. You can even build a bespoke birthday gift hamper using our DIY Hamper Builder. Shop now via the button below.

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