Ornithogalum arabicum

Today’s entry was written by Claire:

Our photograph today was provided by Sean Rangel of Seattle (aka SeanRangel@Flickr) via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Thank you Sean! Sean is also the photographer behind www.baublegraphy.com.

The common name of Ornithogalum arabicum is star of Bethlehem, named for the lovely white flowers this species produces. It belongs to the Asparagaceae (though listed as Liliaceae or Hyacinthaceae in references that use different family classifications). Its subfamily, Scilloideae, contains only herbaceous perennials with bulbs.

Though species of Ornithogalum are native to Eurasia and Africa, these monocots are popular ornamental plants around the world (the most commonly cultivated being Ornithogalum umbellatum, which sometimes escapes the garden and becomes an aggressive introduced species). Ornothogalum arabicum, itself native to Mediterranean areas, is one of about one hundred to one hundred and fifty species in this genus. Some members of the genus are edible, while others are toxic. For an edible example, young inflorescences of bath asparagus or Ornithogalum pyrenaicum can be eaten much like asparagus. However, Ornothogalum arabicum and other species contain toxins (often concentrated in the bulbs or the flowers) such as alkaloids and cardenolides (the same group of steroid toxins employed by monarch butterflies as a disincentive for predators or the heart block inducing poisons of Digitalis).

The delicate flowers of this species are fragrant and bee-pollinated. Local gardeners will be disappointed to learn that Ornithogalum arabicum is marginally hardy (at best) and enjoys low to moderate soil moisture with bright sunlight, making it a poor choice for growing outdoors in Vancouver.

For additional photographs of members of the genus, see Ornithogalum via the Pacific Bulb Society. A Close-up View of Three Ornithogalum Flowers provides an excellent photographs and photomicrographs.

Ornithogalum arabicum

4 responses to “Ornithogalum arabicum”

  1. AJB

    The plant that I believe to be this has just about finished flowering for me here in New Zealand (which is somewhat odd timing if it’s also flowering in October in Seattle). Here it seems to be more commonly called ‘Black Eyed Susan’ but that name is applied to lots of flowers with a dark central spot…

  2. elizabeth a airhart

    this is a lovely named plant to start the holiday season off with
    thank you mr rangel your site is ever so interesting
    as the saying goes a flower is an educated weed
    thank you for all the work claire bon bon

  3. Begonia Palacios

    Thank you Sean for this beautiful picture and the love and knowledge you have for flowers. Keep giving us the joy to see them with that splendor.


    donde puedo encontrar mas información sobre el manejo de ornithogalum arabicum??? seria muy importante para mi obtenerla…gracias

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