Not to be semantically confused with :
Star Thistle nor Star of Persia nor Star Sedge () [plants with similar names]
Many similarities to :
Drooping Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum nutans) but the flowers do not fully open but instead form open bell-shapes, are on shorter stalks and droop downwards (rather than face almost directly skywards)
Slight resemblance to : Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum pyrenaicum) but which is much taller at 50-80cm high and has a spike of numerous flowers.
Superficial resemblance to : Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) and to the mauve-tinged
Kerry Lily (Simethis mattiazzii).
Star-of-Bethlehem ssp. campestre is thought to be native in Breckland, but elsewhere is a naturalised garden escapee as is its slightly larger close relative
Garden Star-of-Bethlehem ssp. umbellatum which is introduced. It grows in gardens where it is planted, and escapes into rough grassland, grass verges, roadside banks, open woods. It prefers a dry, light sandy or gravelly soil, and this is where it was here found, on old flattish land with sand beneath.
Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum ssp. campestre) is not so easily differentiated from
Garden Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum ssp. umbellatum), but is slightly smaller all round, with the size of the bulb being 15-28mm by 10-20mm (15-25mm by 18-30mm for G S-o-B), the number of leaves per bulb ≤35 (≤10 for G S-o-B); the number of flowers per bulb ≤12 (≤20 for G S-o-B), lowest flower pedicel length (stalk length) ≤5cm (≤11cm for G S-o-B), length of outer tepals 15-20cm (20-30cm for G S-o-B) and width of outer tepals 6-9mm (7-9mm for G S-o-B). Because of the large overlap range of these figures (particularly those using ≤ specifications) there is a good chance that S-o-B is under-recorded for Garden S-o-B), the only definitive difference being the number of chromosomes 2n=27 or 28 [triploid] (2n=54 [tetraploid] for G SoB), but only specialists can count those.
It is poisonous containing a cardiac glycosides of the type called
cholestanes and which are similar in effect to those of
Digitalis or Digoxin which are found in Foxglove. It is poisonous to many mammals such as cats, dogs, goats, horses and of course humans. The toxind are found in all parts of the flower, some more than in others; leaves, stems, flowers and the bulbs (which are not edible as some sources suggest!). Twelve bidesmosidic cholestane glycosides are found in Ornithogalum umbellatum).
Although many sources contain references to the plant containing toxic 'alkaloids', none name them, and most sources may be mistaking 'alkaloids' for cardiac glycosides, which, containing no nitrogen atoms, are not alkaloids. Although one source, an on-line dictionary, does say Ornithogalum umbellatum contains the toxic alkaloid Lycorine, but whether this is likely is another matter! The known cardiac glycosides it does contain are sufficient to kill or maim anyway.
It contains 15 cardenolides including two new ones named
Ornithogaloside which has an α-L-arabinopyranoside attached, and its aglycone
Ornithogalin, both named after Star of Bethlehem. Also found are
Rhodexoside and 6 new Cardenolide glycosides, making a total of 15 cardenolides.
It also contains Convallotoxin and
Convalloside (the latter two also being found in Lily of the Valley). Convallotoxin, an aglycone of neither of these two and which is present in Lily of the Valley is not stated as being present in Star-of-Bethlehem so is not shown here. Convallotoxol and Strophalloside both have the same aglycone, which differs from Ornithogalin.
Convalloside and Tholloside also share the same aglycone moiety which differs from those of Ornithogalin and Convallotoxol.
Rhodexin A (with the monoglycoside
Rhodexoside (with the diglycoside rhamnoside-glucoside) - which both have the aglycone
Sarmentogenin, which is also found in the plant, but the last shown, Rhodexin B, has a different aglycone still. Some of the schematics of Rhodexin A on the web differ, but the one drawn is the consensus between 3 sources.
A new steroidal the Phenyl-Sitosterol Stigmastane-glycoside was also discovered in the plant, but this is not a cardenolide.
Six flavonoids were also found in the plant.
A great many other novel steroidal glycosides were found in other species of Ornithogalum from around the World, many of them structurally more complex than the above.