Ornithogalum umbellatum, or Star of Bethlehem, is a perennial plant with small, delicate flowers. It is also known by other names that include 'Wonder Flower', 'Arabian Star Flower', etc. Sometimes it is called the 'florist nightmare' as it has a very long shelf life.
Flower Bulb of the Star of Bethlehem
The bulb belongs to the winter lily family. The bulb of the Star of Bethlehem can turn into a nuisance if you allow it to run wild in your garden. It is native to the Mediterranean region. These flowers are thumb sized, white, and naked. They grow by sending tufts of green leaves on winter. You will find each of the bright grass-like leaf is marked with a white line down the midrib. The large flower bulbs can produce many offsets. Therefore, the foliage clumps may be about 6 inches across. These resemble garlic clumps, but can be easily differentiated as they produce no odor on crushing. Also, the garlic foliage grows straight up and Star of Bethlehem has arching leaves. The leaves of this plant die with the arrival of summer and the bulbs go dormant.
You will see flowers bloom in late April or in early May. The plants shoot up a 10-inch long multi-flowered spike. Each spike bears about 12 to 30 six petaled star like bloom. If you look at the backside of the petals, you will find a broad band of green. These flowers open in the morning and close every evening.
Care of Star of Bethlehem
You can grow Star of Bethlehem in full sun or partial shade. If you grow the plant in an area that is too shady, the plant may produce fewer flowers and grow at a slower pace. You should water the plant regularly and avoid over watering. This is a low maintenance plant that needs a well-drained soil to grow. You need to divide the flower bulbs for propagation. The plants should be kept about 5 to 6 inches apart while growing. The flowers are good for container gardening as well as flower gardens.
Caring for the plant includes watching out for an invasive growth of these flowering plants. These plants spread easily and can overtake other flowers and plants. You cannot get rid of these plants with herbicides, as they have waxy leaves and are very resistant to herbicidal effects. Thus, you may need to individually dig up each bulb.
You should keep this plant away from livestock and other animals. The bulbs and foliage contain toxic alkaloids. Thus, grow them in areas that won't tempt your dog, cat or other pets to take a sample bite of the leaves.
Post Harvest Care
When you get home freshly cut stems of the flowers, make sure you re-cut the stems under water. Place the flowers in plain tap water containing bleach. You should add about 6 to 8 drops of beach per quart. Geotropism, that is, flower stem bending is a problem with all members of this genus. Therefore, you need to apply calcium chelators like EDTA or use anti ethylene action products. This will help minimize the stem bending.
Star of Bethlehem Meaning
Star of Bethlehem is also known as chincherinchee and ornithogalum. The word ornithogalum finds in origins in the Greek language, where 'ornithos' means bird and 'gala' means milk. Thus, 'bird milk' was used to describe something really incredible. In South Africa, these flowers are known as 'tjenkenrientjee', that gave rise to its English version 'chincherinchee'. In the Bible, it got its name from the account of the birth of Jesus Christ. The name was given to the luminous celestial object rising in the sky. This was related in the Gospel of Matthew, that led the Wise Men of the East to the manger in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The Star of Bethlehem is the symbol of purity, atonement, and reconciliation.
This was all about the flower meaning and care. I hope this article has provided you with enough information on these fragrant, small, beautiful flowers.