A Blog Post about Lily of the Valley, Sweden’s Floral Emblem

Lily of the Valley: An Innocent Flower Grown in Northern Europe - Sweden's Floral Emblem

May 22, 2017

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Sweden's Floral Emblem

Hello again, Naho here. When autumn comes, my circulation usually gets poorer.

Compared to my sensitivity to cold weather, Sweden's floral emblem lily of the valley is extremely hardy, to which the cutting wind of winter is nothing but a gentle breeze. Today I would like to write about Sweden and its national flower, the lily of the valley, a "tough" flower despite its innocent and fragile looks.

The Difference between European and Asian Lilies of the Valley

The lily of the valley is a flower that's familiar to Japanese people. However, the variation found in Japan is relatively smaller compared to the species native to Europe, which also tends to have a stronger fragrance. Sweden's floral emblem is the latter, also called "doitsu suzuran" ("German bell orchid") in Japanese. As the name suggests, the plant features small bell-shaped white flowers blooming from the ends of its upright stems. Most of the little white blossoms are upside-down, looking like the definition of "innocent".

Lilies of the valley do not cope well with high temperature and humidity, so we need to keep them in a shady environment with good ventilation in the summer. If the leaves suffer damage from the heat, they might not be able to grow fully, thus affecting the flowering in the year to come. The blossoms naturally fall in late autumn, and it is recommended to take extra care of the leaves. That being said, the plant is extremely tolerant of cold, so there's no need to keep it warm in the winter.

Sweden is a Scandinavian country located in northern Europe, and most of its land area is covered in coniferous forests. For such a country with both an abundance of nature as well as a stark landscape, it is somewhat surprising that its national flower is the harmless and fragile-looking lily of the valley. From another perspective, though, perhaps it is precisely because of the bleak environment that people find those pearly little flowers particularly adorable.

The Swedes: Good English Speakers?

The scientific name of lily of the valley is Convallaria majalis, a species that belongs to the genus Convallaria. It is said that the name of the genus "Convallaria" comes from Latin "Convallis" (valley) and "leirion" (lily), while the specific epithet "majalis" means "to bloom in May," which is actually a faithful description of the flower. The Japanese often call it the "bell orchid," because of its bell-like shape.

Just like where the name "lily of the valley" came from, much of the European culture is an interconnection between different languages and traditions. Today, with English considered the lingua franca of the business world, the Swedes are believed to have the highest average English proficiency among all non-native speakers of the language. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that their mother tongue Swedish is structurally similar to English, making it easier to master.

Furthermore, there's a domestic need that's driving the Swedes to learn English. For example, most of them often travel overseas for business and personal reasons, and English is simply considered a must-have skill.

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