Mediterranean Ornithogalum

This page contains Ornithogalum species native to areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Plants are hardy to very hardy autumn-winter-spring growers. They are mostly spring bloomers. They demand good sunlight and cool growing conditions.

Ornithogalum index - Southern African Ornithogalum a-o - Southern African Ornithogalum p-z

Ornithogalum arabicum L. is a widespread species native to the Mediterranean Sea area. Photo by Jennifer Hildebrand of a plant growing outside in Riverside, California.

Ornithogalum arabicum, Jennifer Hildebrand

Photos below were taken by Johannes-Ulrich Urban in his garden. The flowers are very popular with insects, but a disadvantage is the yellowing foliage at flowering time. Photos show cultivated plants of 2 different provenances. This species may become invasive in suitable conditions. The flowers are attractive but there is a lot of foliage with few flowers, which means this species does not deserve a prime location. The foliage and fruit in the second photo is mainly from Scilla peruviana; photo three shows the yellowing foliage of Ornithogalum arabicum.

Ornithogalum arabicum, Johannes-Ulrich UrbanOrnithogalum arabicum, Johannes-Ulrich UrbanOrnithogalum arabicum, Johannes-Ulrich Urban

Ornithogalum balansae Boiss. is from the Balkans, Georgia and Turkey and is named for Benedict Balansa, a 19th century French botanist. One common name is 'Star of Bethlehem'. First photo in its habitat in Georgia is from Oron Peri. The remaining photos of commercial bulbs were taken by David Pilling. In photo 2 one can count six petals and six anthers, two of which have not yet opened and see the single style. Photo 5 shows that the back of the petals are green.

Ornitogalum balansae, Oron PeriOrnithogalum balansae, David PillingOrnithogalum balansae, David PillingOrnithogalum balansae, David PillingOrnithogalum balansae, David Pilling

Photos of bulbs, seed pod, and seed pods and seeds

Ornithogalum balansae bulb, David PillingOrnithogalum balansae seed pod, David PillingOrnithogalum balansae seed pod and seeds 1st June 2013, David PillingOrnithogalum balansae seeds, David Pilling

Video by David Pilling, 3 to 5pm March 25th 2013, showing flowers in greenhouse closing in response to the setting sun.


Ornithogalum fimbriatum Willd. is a small species native to the Balkans and Turkey, named for its hairy leaves. It flowers just at ground level in late winter, and often produces a second flowering on taller stems later in the spring. It increases very slowly. Photo by Jane McGary

Ornithogalum fimbriatum, Jane McGary

Ornithogalum lanceolatum Labill. is found in southern Anatolia, Turkey, and Israel. The first three photos were taken by Mary Sue Ittner. The last two photos were taken by Alessandro Marinello.

Ornithogalum lanceolatum, Mary Sue IttnerOrnithogalum lanceolatum, Mary Sue IttnerOrnithogalum lanceolatum, Mary Sue IttnerOrnithogalum lanceolatum, Alessandro MarinelloOrnithogalum lanceolatum, Alessandro Marinello

Ornithogalum magnum Krasch. & Schischk. is native to the Caucasus. It is well named because the scapes can easily go up to 3 feet (1 m) high, and with the high bud count the plant remains in bloom for weeks. From a distance it looks like an Asphodelus or a gigantic Habenaria/Platanthera. Photo #1 was taken by Jim McKenney on May 29, 2006 in his garden USDA zone 7, Maryland, USA. Photos #2-3 were taken by Kathleen Sayce.

Ornithogalum magnum, Jim McKenneyOrnithogalum magnum, Kathleen SayceOrnithogalum magnum, Kathleen Sayce

Ornithogalum montanum Cirillo is a Mediterranean species dwelling in arid and stony grassland, superficially similar to O. umbellatum. It differs in the wide leaves, which lay to the ground, without any silver median stripe. The plant is solitary (no suckering) although the photo shows a clump of several plants grown together. The description and the first photo taken in habitat are from Angelo Porcelli. The rest of the photos, including the bulbs on a 1 cm grid, were taken by Mary Sue Ittner.

Ornithogalum montanum, Angelo PorcelliOrnithogalum montanum, Mary Sue IttnerOrnithogalum montanum, Mary Sue IttnerOrnithogalum montanum, Mary Sue IttnerOrnithogalum montanum, Mary Sue IttnerOrnithogalum montanum bulbs, Mary Sue Ittner

Ornithogalum narbonense L. is native to the Mediterranean area. Photos 1 and 2 by Kathleen Sayce. Photos 3 through 5 by Shlomit Heymann in habitat, in Israel, May 2011 and March 2016.

Ornithogalum narbonense, Kathleen SayceOrnithogalum narbonense, Kathleen SayceOrnithogalum narbonense, Shlomit HeymannOrnithogalum narbonense, Shlomit HeymannOrnithogalum narbonense, Shlomit Heymann

Ornithogalum nutans L. is native to southeastern Europe and the Near East. It is widely naturalized in eastern North America. The plants shown in the first image were photographed on April 18, 2008 in Turkey Run Park along the Potomac River in northern Virginia, USA by Jim McKenney. Photos 2 and 3 of plants in cultivation by Laura Grant.

Ornithogalum nutans, Jim McKenneyOrnithogalum nutans, Laura GrantOrnithogalum nutans, Laura Grant

Ornithogalum oligophyllum E.D.Clarke is native to the Balkans and West Turkey. It has two, occasionally three, channeled leaves that are longer than the inflorescence and 2-5 flowers on a thin stem, 5 -10 cm long. It grows in the sub-alpine belt in open, conifer woods and rocky situations and flowers soon after the snow melts, late February-April. The photo was taken in Tahtali Dag, Antalya Province, southwest Turkey by Oron Peri.

Ornithogalum oligophyllum, Oron Peri

Ornithogalum ponticum Zahar. is native to the Caucasus. Photos by Kathleen Sayce.

Ornithogalum ponticum, Kathleen SayceOrnithogalum ponticum, Kathleen Sayce

Ornithogalum reverchonii Lange ex Willk. is native to southwestern Spain and Morocco, growing in crevices in limestone, but it does not require lime in cultivation, as evident in the photographed plants, which were grown from seed and are kept in a bulb frame in Oregon in mildly acid gritty soil. They flower in late spring and are particularly elegant with their pure white pendent flowers on tall stems. The leaves are long and lax. Photo by Jane McGary

Ornithogalum reverchonii, Jane McGary

Ornithogalum sigmoideum Freyn & Sint. has a wide distribution from southeast Europe to northern Iran. This species has sessile flower spikes, and narrow deep green leaves with a white midrib. It grows in open fields often in damp conditions, forming large clumps. The photograph was taken by Oron Peri of a plant in his collection.

Ornithogalum sigmoideum, Oron Peri

Ornithogalum sintenisii Freyn is typical of the larger short-stemmed ornithogalums of the Mediterranean region, and is available commercially. It is hardy to at least 20 degrees F. Photo by Jane McGary.

Ornithogalum sintenisii, Jane McGary

Ornithogalum trichophyllum Boiss. is native to the Eastern Mediterranean including Cyprus. It is easily recognized by the filiform leaves and roundish white petals that have a hint of silvery/grey reflection. It grows in semi-desert and desert conditions, blooming February-March. The first photo was taken in southwest Jordan by Oron Peri. Second photo of a curly-leaved form by Gideon Pisanty.

Ornithogalum trichophyllum, Oron PeriOrnithogalum trichophyllum with curled leaves, Gideon Pisanty

Ornithogalum umbellatum L. is a charming species spread all over the Mediterranean basin, but also reaching north to England and southern Sweden. In parts of middle Europe it is known to be a weedy species which is difficult to control due to its deep sitting bulbs. It has escaped cultivation and is spreading in the eastern half of the USA. Photos taken in habitat in Apulia by Angelo Porcelli.

Ornithogalum umbellatum, Angelo PorcelliOrnithogalum umbellatum, Angelo Porcelli

Ornithogalum index - Southern African Ornithogalum a-o - Southern African Ornithogalum p-z

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