Ornithogalum

Star-like white flowers shining like beacons

It’s like a fairytale: Ornithogalum’s flowers only open when the sun shines and it’s light enough. It’s your own personal weather forecaster! 

Ornithogalum  Thejoyofplants.co.ukCopyright: Visions

Ornithogalum thyrsoides (commonly known as Star of Bethlehem) is a bulb plant. The plant blooms from July to September with star-shaped white flowers which together form a shield or a plume. There’s an attractive green stripe on the back of the petals that you can no longer see when the flower is wide open. The plant grows to 60-80 cm tall and is rather sensitive: on cloudy or cool days the flowers take the day off until the sun reappears. Ornithogalum can easily naturalise, so that it may well pop up elsewhere in your garden after a couple of years. 

Protected beauty 

Ornithogalum a member of the asparagus family, and includes some 180 species. The plant originates from southern Europe and Asia Minor. In the wild it grows in grasslands, verges and damp forests. There are a couple of species that grow wild further north and are protected by law. The plant was first described in 1753 by the botanist Linnaeus. 

Trivia 

  • The scientific name Ornithogalum is derived from an old Greek plant name: 'ornithos' means ‘bird’, 'gala' means 'milk'.  The way in which the petals open in the sun has a very delicate feel about it and is reminiscent of a bird defying gravity and rising up into the air. Milk refers to the white colour.  

  • A common name for Ornithogalum is Star of Bethlehem, and it’s also known as chinkerinchee. 

  • In the Bach remedies Ornithogalum represents 'balsam for the soul'. 

  • Ornithogalum's symbolic meaning is purity and innocence.