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Ornithogalum

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Name

Also known as chincherinchee and star of Bethlehem. The Greeks used the term "bird's milk" ornithos (bird) and gala (milk) to describe something incredible. The South Africans know them as "tjenkenrientjee" which is where the odd English name chincherinchee comes from.

Description

Their flowers, bell and star-shaped, are showy and sometimes very fragrant . They bloom individually in circles carried at the top of leafless stems.

Origin

Ornithogalum thyrsoides is native to South Africa and Ornithogalum umbellatum is native to the Mediterranean.

Colour

Usually white but also yellow and orange

Availability

All year round

Family

They belong to the Liliaceae (lily) family and grow from bulbs.

Varieties

The best known is Ornithogalum thyrsoides. Ornithogalum umbellatum has larger star-shaped white flowers and narrow leaves. This variety's most eye-catching feature is the beautiful green stripe on each flower. The flower shown here is Ornithogalum arabicum (sometimes called the Star of Bethlehem), which has a long stem with a distinctive umbrella of waxy white flowers carrying a green-black ovary in the centre. Ornithogalum dubium is a lovely clear orange shade, and has cup-shaped flowers.

Care tips

Sometimes called a "florist's nightmare" because they have such a long vase life. They can easily last a whole month.