STAR-OF-BETHLEHEM

Ornithogalum umbellatum ssp. campestre

(Formerly: Ornithogalum angustifolium)
Asparagus Family [Asparagaceae]

month8may month8jun month8june

status
statusZneophyte
 
flower
flower8white
 
inner
inner8cream
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ6
(3+3)
stem
stem8round
 
toxicity
toxicityZhigh
 

13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Shorter than the more common and introduced sub-species of Star of Bethlehem Ornithogalum umbellatum ssp. umbellatum.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
It has flower which are smaller than ssp. umbellatum with outer tepals that are only 15-20mm long (as opposed to 20-30mm long for ssp. umbellatum).


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
It has what look like 6 petals, but they are all tepals, 3 of them being outer tepals which are longer than the inner three tepals and which originally encased the flower bud before un-folding.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Single flowers atop long, curving, alternate stalks with long narrow whitish ligules emerging just in the stalk axil. The sub-species ssp. campestre has fewer flowers (up to 12) than does the larger ssp. umbellatum at up to 20.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
In the centre are a few stalks not yet fully developed each atopped with their own flower bud.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
3 inner tepals above 3 longer outer tepals set at 60° to each other. Opening flower bud bottom left.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
In the middle are 6 white and (unusual in the floral world) wide, but narrowing filaments atopped by long narrow anthers. In the centre is a green developing fruit with single residual stigma atop.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Sitting like a tall green fruit pastille or a lime-flavoured jelly set from a 6-ribbed mold the developing fruit with single long thin round style with single small discoidal stigma atop.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The white filaments taper with a shallow S-shaped taper to the anthers bearing creamy pollen on the inner side only.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The anthers curl over outwards.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Anthers and 6-lobed lime fruit pastille.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Style and stigma atop 'lime fruit pastille'. Outer tepals are just below the inner tepals.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Both outer and inner tepals have a streaky green mark along the centre underside. the ligules are white with narrow lime-green longitudinal stripes.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Ligules start in the axils of stems and are long and taper, a little like those enclosing the bulbils or flowers on many plants belonging to the Onion and Garlic family, Alliaceae


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Speckled appearance of the pale-green stripes on the outer sides of both inner tepals and outer tepals alike.


13th May 2016, footpath, Cabin Hill, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
An as-yet unopened flower bud encased by 3 outer tepals.


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 cardenolides of 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.

CARDENOLIDES

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 Strophalloside, Convallotoxol, Lokundjoside, Tholloside, Rhodexin A, Rhodexin B, 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 Rhamnoside) and 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.


  Ornithogalum umbellatum ssp. campestre  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Asparagaceae  

Distribution
 family8Asparagus family8Asparagaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Ornithogalum
Ornithogalum
(Star-of-Bethlehems)

STAR-OF-BETHLEHEM

Ornithogalum umbellatum ssp. campestre

(Formerly: Ornithogalum angustifolium)
Asparagus Family [Asparagaceae]