Family Asparagaceae > Subfamily Scilloideae > Tribe Ornithogaleae.
Native to southern Europe, Africa and Asia they are commonly known as Star of Bethlehem.
The classification history is long and complicated with the genus having at times been in the families
of Liliaceae or Hyacinthaceae but it is now most commonly seen in Asparagaceae.
Some Australian states still put them in Hyacinthaceae or Liliaceae.
The families have been variously divided into Clades, Tribes, Sub-genera and sections.
Depending on whether it is strictly (sensu stricto) or loosely (sensu lato) defined the number of species
in the genus varies from 20 to 50 up to around 200 to 300.
There are 3 species naturalised in southern Australia.
Some species and cultivars are used as garden plants or long lasting cut flowers.
Plants grow from roughly ovoid bulbs covered by pale brown to white, papery tunics.
They are perennial but the leaves die back each year.
The simple strap-like leaves are basal and they have no petiole.
They are commonly linear to lanceolate but may also be ovate to round.
The edges may or may not have small hairs.
The veins are parallel and there may be a wide prominent midrib.
The erect inflorescences are hollow hairless scapes (leafless stalks) up to 30 cm high.
A plant can have up to three scapes each with from 2 to 300 flowers.
Spikes are often conical in shape and the stalked flowers open from the bottom up (a raceme).
The pedicels, up to 8 cm long have a papery bracteole at their base.
The ovate to lanceolate bracteoles are white to pale brown and the tips have small hairs.
Flowers are commonly cup or star-shaped but may be funnel-shaped.
They have 6 free almost translucent tepals in two whorls of three.
Those in the 2 whorls are similar or slightly unequal.
Tepals are typically white or cream and may have a green stripe on the outer surface.
Some species have coloured flowers such as Ornithogalum dubium which may have orange flowers as well as white.
There are 6 free fertile stamens in 2 whorls of three.
The white filaments are commonly flattened and their wider bases surround the ovary.
In some species there are basal appendages on the filaments.
The dorsifixed anthers open inwards via longitudinal slits.
The green superior ovary of 3 fused carpels has 3 locules.
In some species it is on a short stalk.
It is cylindrical to spherical with 6 vertical angles or ribs.
The 2 to many ovules in each locule have axile placentation.
There may be 1 slender style equal in length to the ovary or no style.
The stigma can be spherical or 3-lobed.
The perianth remains around the roughly ovoid, angled, loculicidal capsules.
The black seeds are variously shaped.
New plants can be grown from seeds but more commonly come from the small bulbils that form around the main bulb.