Sonntag, 22. Juni 2014

Portrait: Ornithogalum umbellatum L.

In this article, we want to take a closer look on Ornithogalum umbellatum L. from the Asparagaceae family. In German, this species is known as “Dolden-Milchstern”, while common English names are “Stare-of-Bethlehem”, “grass lilly” or “11'o clock flower”. Please note: in older literature, the plant still belongs to the Lilliace

1) Description

As with many members of the Asparagaceae family, O. umbellatum is a perennial plant and can reach average heights between 10 and 30 centimeters. Each plant has between six or nine leaves, which arise from the base (so the stalk is completely leafless). This leaves are very long and tower over the inflorescences clearly. They are also very fleshy and between five and six millimeters width. Another, distinctive feature of the leaves is the milky-white gutter, which goes until the leaf-tip. 

O. umbellatum - habitus

As I said it before, O. umbellatum is a perennial plant, so it has to outlast harsh times (like winter). For this purpose, the plant uses an underground bulb, which consists of a main bulb and some smaller side-bulbs.

 O. umbellatum - the pictures were made on a cloudy day;
so the flower is nearly closed

The inflorescences are umbel-like racemes, which consist of ten to fifteen flowers. As with all monocotyledons, the flowers of O. umbellatum has two circles of identical tepals with three tepals per circle. Each tepal has a snow-white color and a distinctive green stripe on their dorsal site. Flowering time is between April and May. The ripe fruit is an oval capsule with many seed within. 

 O. umbellatum - another look at the flower

Some of the most interesting features of this species is its phototropism. It reacts on sunlight and open the flowers only at sunshine. During bad weather of at night, the flower is closed.

2) Distribution

O. umbellatum is native to the Mediterranean, but can also been found in Middle Europe, northern Africa and Western Asia. It grows also in some areas in North America, where it was imported as an ornamental plant.

 O. umbellatum - typical habitat

The species prefers a nutrient-rich soil on clay and grows on fresh meadows, vineyards, parks and even roadsides.

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