Star of Bethlehem - The Ornithogalum Thyrsoides

Commonly known as the Star of Bethlehem and the wonder flower, the Ornithogalum thyrsoides is part of the family of Hyacinthaceae.

Did you know? South Africa is home to more than 22 000 indigenous seed plants from almost 230 different families.

The flowers are beautiful, ideal for those wanting to put on a real display in their gardens or homes. In Afrikaans, they are known as tjienkerientjee.


At the end of the long, relatively leaf-free stalks are clusters of bowl-shaped flowers. These are white or off-white with green or brown shading in the centre, which fades over time. These flowers last a long time, once open, and bend towards the light.

The leaves are fleshy and sword-shaped, and only number about six per stalk. They feel soft and smooth to the touch. The fruity capsule is tapered on either end and splits to expose the black seeds inside.

Flowering time

The Ornithogalum thyrsoides flowers from October to February, providing lasting blooms that grace gardens and landscapes with their pristine blooms during the hottest months.

Use in the garden

Ornithogalum thyrsoides grows well in gardens and provides pretty bursts of white amongst the green foliage. They are poisonous for horses and cattle, if consumed. They last a long time in a vase (from 10 to 14 days in fact), making for beautiful displays and arrangements.

If the stems are put into water containing a large proportion of food dye, the flowers take on the colour of the dye. They do well in formal and informal arrangements; ranging from a relaxed dinner on the balcony to a wedding.

Natural distribution

The Ornithogalum thyrsoides is found both in South Africa and other countries. Locally, it grows in the provinces of the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. It prefers sandy plains and the lower parts of mountain slopes. It copes well in areas with a summer rainfall, despite doing better in winter rainfall regions.

Growing Ornithogalum thyrsoides in your garden

This pretty flowering shrub does best in sunny conditions with healthy soil. In addition, they do particularly well in a sloping garden, which facilitates a healthy drainage system. Still, they are hardy, able to withstand conditions that are more testing than their optimal state.


These plants are best propagated by splitting the bulbils from the main bulbs and planting these. Alternatively, it is possible to grow Ornithogalum thyrsoides from seed, but this is more difficult than by the bulbs. A good, healthy soil is necessary, coupled with adequate watering.

If you plan to travel to South Africa to visit our magnificent botanical gardens and to enjoy our diverse plant life and unspoiled wilderness, click here to start your search for accommodation in South Africa for your holiday. We wish you happy exploring and travelling.

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