Ornithogalum is a genus of flowering plants in family Hyacinthaceae, comprising about 80 species. It is native to southern Europe and southern Africa. It is commonly known as Star-Of-Bethlehem, and only a few species are widely grown and not all are hardy enough to be left in the ground all year long. It grows from a bulb, has grass-like basal leaves and a slender stalk of 30 cm tall, bearing clusters of star-shaped white flowers striped with green.
Ornigalum umbellatum (Star-of-Bethlehem, Grass Lily, Nap-at-Noon, eleven-o'clock Lady) is a perennial bulbous flowering plant. It is native throughout most of southern and central Europe (north to Austria and Belgium), and northwestern Africa and Southeastern Asia. The flowers group in a corymbose raceme with 6-20 flowers, and are white with a green stripe outside. The plant needs lots of moisture during winter and spring, but can tolerate summer droughtiness. It can be grown in the woodland garden and prefer semi-shade.
Ornithogalum pyrenaicum (Bath Asparagus) is a plant (1m x 10 cm) which has grey-green leaves, and in early summer, bears raceme of up to 40 star-shaped, white flowers with green stripes. Its young shoots can be eaten as a vegetable, similar to asparagus. The common name "Bath Asparagus" comes from the fact it was once abundant near the city of Bath in England.
Ornithogalum thyrsoides is endemic to the Cape Province in South Africa. It is known by its common name chincherinchee (chinkerinchee). During summer, it bears erect, dense racemes of cup-shaped, white flowers, greenish at the base, which open in succession.
Some of the species in the genus are poisonous and have been known to kill grazing animals. The bulbs contain alkaloids and cardenolides which are toxic. Others are edible and are used as vegetables.
Ornithogalum species are trouble free, easy to grow and suitable for containers. Plant them in sun and well-drained soil. Propagation is by seed in spring and offsets in autumn.