Maianthemum canadense (Canada Mayflower)

Plant Info
Also known as: Wild Lily-of-the-valley, False Lily-of-the-valley
Family:Ruscaceae (Butcher's Broom)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; woods
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:3 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] Flowers are in a densely packed spike-like raceme 1 to 2½ inches long at the top of the stem. Individual flowers are about 3/8 inch across with 4 white petals that drop off soon after blooming, and 4 thick creamy tipped stamens that project out like the points of a star. One plant has a single cluster, though not all plants flower.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Sterile plants have 1 leaf; fertile plants have 2 or occasionally 3 leaves of unequal size, with heart-shaped bases and pointed tips. The largest leaf is up to 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. There are feint stripes and parallel veins along the length of the leaf. Leaves are toothless and hairless. The main stem zig-zags between the alternately attached leaves.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a green berry about ¼ inch in diameter, mottled with dull pale red that ripens to dark red in late summer.


Canada Mayflower is a common woodland spring wildflower, typically found growing in colonies of various sizes. Formerly in the Liliaceae (Lily) family, all Maianthemum species have been reassigned to Ruscaceae (Butcher's Broom).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake and Vadnais/Snail Lake Regional parks, Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jeanne - Minnehaha Falls
on: 2010-06-12 21:01:05

Below the Falls at the mouth of the Creek

Posted by: Steve - Ramsey Minnesota
on: 2011-06-17 20:32:55

Our house lot was part of a tree farm - the flowers are in a small colony underneath a group of scotch pine

Posted by: Pat - Pillager
on: 2011-09-05 21:31:32

I have these growing all over in my native vegetative lot. Quite nice little flowers and can definitely replace the over used Lily-of-the Valley.

Posted by: Noelle - Ely
on: 2012-06-04 21:37:11

Along the road to the International Wolf Center.

Posted by: Joelle - Lebanon Hills Regional Park
on: 2013-06-03 11:10:48

Surprised to spot some of these in Eagan MN (Dakota County). Usually I see them further north.

Posted by: Laurie - Deer River
on: 2013-08-31 19:38:38

I have a small patch of these growing amid sugar maple seedlings, red baneberry, and near a blue cohosh in a vegetative area under mature sugar maples.

Posted by: Kelly - North Shore of Lake Superior near Duluth
on: 2015-06-20 15:30:39

These are growing in the pine forests near the Scenic Drive/Highway 61. They are growing near bunchberry plants.

Posted by: Steve W - Mower County
on: 2017-05-30 16:53:26

I noticed these blooming for the first time today on our farm in Mower County.

Posted by: Annie - St. Louis County - Hibbing
on: 2018-05-21 09:50:33

Along the edge of the woods.

on: 2018-06-26 14:45:42

We have had these growing on our lot for a number of years.

Posted by: Bill Brown - Grant
on: 2021-05-05 09:13:25

I have quite a few showing up on my property after removing invasives.

Posted by: Jaron - Minneapolis
on: 2021-05-14 11:02:52

Is the best way to distinguish these from European Lily-of-the-Valley simply the size of the leaves? I've looked at a few keys and ID guides for each species and that is the only major difference I'm really noticing. Thanks!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-05-14 13:25:02

Jaron, leaves of the European species are indeed distinctly longer (to 8 inches) and proportionately narrower, tapering at the base, and non-flowering plants have 2 leaves; leaves of the native are usually less than half as long, more heart-shaped at the base and non-flowering shoots have a single leaf. When flowering they are easy to distinguish from the flower shape and arrangement.

Posted by: Helen C Stoerzinger - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2021-05-14 21:20:19

We have them in many groups of single leaves. That made them hard to ID - no flower color to look up! My friend's son ID'd them from an app. We also saw them (single leaves) at Afton SP last Saturday. Are they poisonous to dogs?

Posted by: Sherman in Duluth - at the North end of Helmer I. Carlson Recreational Field
on: 2022-06-29 11:52:58

They grow in the woods in yards along Ideal Street. I have a small patch of Canada Mayflowers growing in the shade under the Arbor Vitae along the East side of my house. There's also a very large patch of them growing throughout a small stand of red pines that were probably planted 80 or 100 years ago when this "Highland Gardens" area of Duluth was commercially growing raspberries. Those Red Pines are at the North end of the Helmer I. Carlson Recreational Field which was constructed on Basswood Ave in 1990.

Posted by: Steve Poole - Eagan,mn
on: 2023-05-26 18:48:29

Just saw these this year. They are growing in our backyard which is a group of oak and black cherry and Aspen. It's been around for quite a few years.

Posted by: Chris St George - Pine City
on: 2023-06-04 09:22:43

Showed up last year, in part shade. Is aggressive, taking over as a ground cover.

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