Ornithogalum is a genus of perennial plants mostly native to southern Europe and southern Africa belonging to the family Asparagaceae. There are some species native to other areas such as the Caucasus. Growing from a bulb, species have linear basal leaves and a slender stalk, up to 30 cm or more tall, bearing clusters of typically white star-shaped flowers, often striped with green. The common name of the genus, Star-of-Bethlehem, is based on its star-shaped flowers, after the Star of Bethlehem that appeared in the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus.
There are about 180 species, of which the best known are O. umbellatum, O. saundersiae, O. arabicum and O. thyrsoides.
- O. arabicum (Star-of-Bethlehem)
- O. dubium (Sun Star, Yellow Chincherinchee)
- O. maculatum (Snake Flower)
- O. narbonense (Pyramidal Star-of-Bethlehem)
- O. nutans (Drooping Star-of-Bethlehem)
- O. pyrenaicum (Bath Asparagus/Prussian Asparagus/Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem)
- Ornithogalum saundersiae (Giant Chincherinchee)
- O. thyrsoides (Chincherinchee)
- O. umbellatum (Common Star-of-Bethlehem) Type species
Species formerly placed in Galtonia include:
- O. candicans (Baker) J.C.Manning & Goldblatt (Summer Hyacinth, Cape Hyacinth)
- O. viridiflorum (I.Verd.) J.C.Manning & Goldblatt
Ornithogalum species may be sold as cut flowers, particularly O. arabicum, O. dubium, O. saundersiae and O.thyrsoides. They are also sold as ornamental garden flowers.
Toxicity and use in alternative medicine
Some of the plants in the genus are poisonous, and have been known to kill grazing animals. Others are edible and used as vegetables. The bulbs contain alkaloids and cardenolides, which are toxic.
Ornithogalum has been listed as one of the 38 plants used to prepare Bach flower remedies, a kind of alternative medicine promoted for its effect on health. However according to Cancer Research UK, "there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer".
- "Ornithogalum Linnaeus". Flora of North America.
- "Ornithogalum L.". Ornamental Plants From Russia And Adjacent States Of The Former Soviet Union.
- International Flower Bulb Centre: Ornithogalum
- Search for "Galtonia", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2012-05-21
- Grower Direct: Ornithogalum
- D. S. Vohra (1 June 2004). Bach Flower Remedies: A Comprehensive Study. B. Jain Publishers. p. 3. ISBN 978-81-7021-271-3. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- "Flower remedies". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved September 2013.
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