(Ornithogalum umbellatum) Lily family
FlowersOpening in the sunshine, white within, greenish on the outside, veined, borne on slender pedicels in an erect, loose cluster. Perianth of 6 narrowly oblong divisions, 1/2 in. long or over, or about twice as long as the flattened stamens; style short, 3-sided. Scape: Slender, 4 to 12 in. high, with narrow, blade-like bracts above. Leaves : Narrow, grass-like, with white midvein, fleshy, all from coated, egg-shaped bulb.
Preferred HabitatMoist, grassy meadows, old lawns.
DistributionEscaped from gardens from Massachusetts to Virginia.
The finding of these exquisite little flowers, growing wild among the lush grass of a meadow not far from some old home-stead where their ancestors, with crocuses and grape hyacinths, once brightened the lawn in early spring, makes one long to start a Parkinson Society instantly. Some school children not far from New York, receiving their inspiration from Mrs. Ewing’s little book, ” Mary’s Meadow,” have spread the gospel of beauty, like the true missionaries they are, by systematically planting in lanes and fields sweet violets, golden coreopsis, hardy poppies, blue corn-flowers, Japanese roses, orange day-lilies, larkspurs, and many other charming garden flowers that need only the slightest encouragement to run wild. Immense quantities of seed, that go to loss in every garden, might so easily be sprinkled at large on our walks. Nearly all the beautiful hardy perennials cultivated here grow in Nature’s garden in Europe or Asia, and will do so in America if they are but given the chance. The Star of Bethlehem is a case in point. Several members of the large group of charming spring flowers to which it belongs grow in such abundance in the Old World that for centuries the bulbs have furnished food to the omnivorous Italian and Asiatic peasants. If we cannot spare offsets from the garden, and will wait a few years for seeds to bear, the rich, light loam of our grassy meadows, too, will be streaked with a Milky Way of floral stars, as they are in Italy.
The Greek generic name of the Star of Bethlehem, meaning ” bird’s milk ” (a popular folk expression in Europe for some marvellous thing) was applied by Linnaeus because of the flower’s likeness to the wonderful star in the East which guided the Wise Men to the manger where Jesus lay.