The Star of Bethlehem is a genus (Ornithogalum) of perennial plants mostly native to southern Europe and southern Africa belonging to the family Hyacinthaceae. There are some species native to other areas such as the Caucasus. Growing from a bulb, it has grass-like basal leaves and a slender stalk, up to 30 cm tall, bearing clusters of star-shaped white flowers striped with green. There are numerous members of the genus, of which O. umbellatum is perhaps the best-known:
- O. arabicum (Star-of-Bethlehem)
- O. dubium (Sun Star)
- O. longibracteatum (Pregnant Onion/False Sea Onion)
- O. maculatum (Snake Flower)
- O. narbonense (Pyramidal Star-of-Bethlehem)
- O. nutans (Drooping Star-of-Bethlehem)
- O. pyrenaicum (Bath Asparagus/Prussian Asparagus/Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem)
- O. umbellatum (Common Star-of-Bethlehem)
- O. thyroides (Chincherinchee)
Because of its star-shaped flowers, it is named for the Star of Bethlehem
that appeared in the Biblical
account of the birth of Jesus
"Yellow star-of-Bethlehem" refers to plants of a different genus. See Gagea.
Some of the plants in the genus are poisonous, and have been known to kill grazing animals. Others are edible and used as vegetables. These flowers' bulbs
, which are toxic.