Ornithogalum… Say it out loud? Orni-tho-galum. There we go.
Many flowers can be referred to as “star” stems – but ornithogalum really earns the title. In fact, you might know it better by its other name: Star of Bethlehem, owing to its many star-shaped buds. Like stars, this stem isn’t always here. But our wishes came true and it is starring in our boxes in the next few weeks.
The name we call it – ornithogalum – comes from the Ancient Greek for “birds milk”, a term for something impossibly cool (as impossible as milk from a bird, right?). You might be surprised to learn that this utterly lovely stem is actually a member of the asparagus family and is native to Europe and parts of Asia.
When ornithogalum lands in your vase, they might look a little bit shy. But soon enough they’ll open up into a constellation of stars – they’re a long lasting flower that will carry on shining brightly for weeks.
Like all flowers, ornithogalum possesses powerful symbolic meanings. Think purity, truth, hope, faith and forgiveness. Traditionally, ornithogalum is associated with weddings, christenings and funerals – particularly in the Christian faith, no doubt connected to its Star of Bethlehem name.
When planted, ornithogalum play a sort of music. Mozart probably wouldn’t sign them up but the stems do rub together to make a rather lovely squeaky orchestral sound.
The common name for Ornithogalum is the onomatopoeic “chincherinchee”. It was given this because it resembles the sounds these flowers’ stems make when rubbing together in the wind on the plains of their native South Africa. I think it sounds more like Dick Van Dyke’s favourite saying “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. (Did you know his favourite flower is the white hawthorn blossom as it is the state flower of his home town Missouri? And Mary Poppins wears a Chrysanthemum in her hat).
Not only will these flowers last for weeks and weeks but if you want to have a little science experiment then add a little bit of food colouring (mainly stick with red and blue) to the flower water and the flowers will start to change colour slightly. The chameleons of the flower world. And they look a bit alien too.
So enjoy these wonderful flowers in your arrangement. They are perfectly in season right now!