Star of Bethlehem replaces jonquils in spring beauty

Published on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 23:59 - Written by Dee Bishop, In Our Garden

This humble little bulb seems to pop up where you least expect it. I have seen it growing all around the Tyler area in old yards, in fields and along country roadsides.

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) pops up in my yard in mid-spring and blooms quite a while. After the glorious jonquils and other showy narcissus have faded, up jumps multitudes of little white stars. You can’t help loving them.

Scott Ogden, a well-known authority on bulbs, said other common names for this little Ornithogalum (there are other kinds) are “Sleepy Dick” and “Nap at Noon,” which refer to the daily openings and closings of the little flowers. Flowers that open and close last longer than those that do not, so maybe that explains why these little bulbs seem to bloom so long.

Named by Dioscorides, the name Ornithogalum translates to “bird’s milk.” The little round white bulbs also are known as “dove’s dung” and theoretically were the dove’s dung sold during the siege of Jerusalem.

Stars of Bethlehem are perfect little bulbs to allow to naturalize in your lawn. Their little leaves disappear soon after they bloom and hide themselves down in the lawn.

If you see these little stars, take a close look. They are snow white with green trim. They do seed out prodigiously but who cares? Soon your lawn will become a multitude of little white stars all about the size of a quarter.