Ornithogalum umbellatum L.
Star of Bethlehem, grass lily, nap-at-noon, eleven-o’clock lady, Star-of-Bethlehem
When this lovely little plant popped up in the middle of my lawn, I carefully mowed around it three times. Then my nephew mowed the lawn. He didn’t get the memo! Oh well, maybe it’ll be back in the spring. Star of Bethlehem is native to southern and central Europe, northwestern Africa, and southwestern Asia. In North America it escaped cultivation and is now naturalized. In Maryland and Pennsylvania, it is reported to be invasive. It prefers new forests, floodplain forests, and wet meadows, yards, or gardens.
Plants: A perennial growing from bulbs, 6-12" (15-30 cm) × 12-24" (30-60 cm). Each bulb is ½-⅞" (1.5-2.5 cm) × ⅝-1¼" (1.8-3.2 cm). Stems, technically scapes, are ⅜-1" (1-3 cm) long.
Leaves: 6-10 narrow, linear, grasslike leaves, with a white line on the upper surface. Each leaf is up to 12" (30 cm) × ¼" (8 mm)
Flowers: Each flower is a star ½-¾" (1.3-1.9 cm) in diameter, with six petals, appearing in small groups (umbels). Flowers are striped green on the outside, appearing from April to May.
Fruits: Fruits are 3-sided. containing many black seeds. Seeds ripen from June to July.
Edibility: Bulbs can cause dermatitis in some people, and is said to be poisonous to people and to grazing animals.
Medical: Despite serious safety concerns, people take star of Bethlehem for congestive heart failure (CHF) (WebMD.com). Don’t do this!
Ornithogalum umbellatum on www.eddmaps.org
Ornithogalum umbellatum at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Ornithogalum umbellatum on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Ornithogalum umbellatum description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.
Range: Zones 4-9: