Ornithogallum umbellatum L.—Star-of-Bethlehem
FAMILY: Liliaceae—the Lily Family (see Amianthium)
PHENOLOGY: Star-of-Bethlehem fowers in May and June.
DISTRIBUTION: This species has escaped from cultivation into roadsides, meadows, and clearings in woods. It has been planted as a garden ornamental but is used less frequently now.
PLANT CHARACTERISTICS: Tepals: 6, separate, white with a broad green midstripe beneath; stamens: 6; perennial herbs from a truncated bulb; leaves: linear. basal, 2-4 mm wide flowering stems: leafess, star-shaped flowers are subtended by a small bract; fruit: a trilobed, several seeded capsule.
POISONOUS PARTS: Although the aerial portions of the plant are reported to contain toxic alkaloids, animals seem to graze on them without adverse effect. The small, white, onionlike bulb is toxic.
SYMPTOMS: Ingestion causes nausea, gastrointestinal upset, bloating, depression, and salivation.
POISONOUS PRINCIPLES: An unidentified alkaloid, perhaps closely related to colchicine, is responsible for toxicosis.
CONFUSED TAXA: Two species of Ornithogallum occur in the Commonwealth: O. umbellatum and O. nutans L. The literature reports O. umbellatum as toxic in the absence of information. O. nutans also should be considered poisonous. The following characteristics differentiate the two: Ornithogallum umbellatum flowers in May-June, has narrow leaves 2-4 mm wide, and an inforescence in which the lower flowers are on long ascending pedicels; O. nutans flowers in April-May, has leaves 4-8 mm wide, and equal pedicels.
SPECIES OF ANIMALS AFFECTED: Children have been poisoned from consuming flowers and bulbs. Sheep and cattle have died from eating bulbs. Frost heaving of soil and plowing will bring the bulbs to the soil surface.
TREATMENT: (11a)(b); (26)