Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) by lindayy


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									Best Management Practices for
Dryland Cropping Systems

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)
Star of Bethlehem (Figure 1) is an increasingly                                   on barley stubble and infect Star of Bethlehem as soon
problematic weed found in areas of the Murrumbidgee                               as it emerges. It then produces further spores which can
catchment including near Henty and Junee. Infestations                            spread to barley plants. The spores which survive over
impact on crop growth and mechanical operations due                               summer on stubble cannot directly reinfect barley
to the high bulb density and dense foliage. Bulb                                  seedlings (Wallwork, Mayfield & Dillon 1992).
densities are estimated to be up to 15 million bulbs per
hectare (Southern Illinois University 2003) which                                 Taxonomy
reduces the total soil volume, seed to soil contact and
root to soil contact of crop species. Star of Bethlehem is                        Star of Bethlehem belongs to the Lily family (Liliaceae)
often misidentified because of a low level of awareness                           and the Ornithogalum genus. It is also known as cupid’s
by landholders.                                                                   flower, summer snowflake, starflower, snowdrop or nap-

                                                                                  Star of Bethlehem is not declared noxious in the
                                                                                  Murrumbidgee catchment.

                                                                                  Origin, Introduction to Australia and
                                                         Photo: Cynthia Podmore

                                                                                  Star of Bethlehem is native to the Mediterranean region
                                                                                  (Klingaman 2006). It was introduced into Australia as an
                                                                                  ornamental garden plant and has since escaped to
                                                                                  become a significant weed in many areas of Australia
                                                                                  (Figure 2). The predominant method of spread is via
                                                                                  mechanical activity such as tillage and movement of

Figure 1. Star of Bethlehem.

  • Correct identification is essential as Star of
    Bethlehem can be confused with other species
    but needs to be managed differently.
  • Early eradication is important, as control is very
    difficult in established populations.
  • Farm hygiene is imperative to limit the spread of
                                                                                                                                               Photo: Cynthia Podmore

    the weed.

All parts of the Star of Bethlehem plant contain cardiac
glycosides and are poisonous to stock and humans if
ingested however the bulbs contain a higher
concentration. The bulbs are more accessible to stock
following ploughing or any activity which leaves them on
                                                                                  Figure 2. A Star of Bethlehem infestation near Henty, NSW.
the soil surface. Symptoms of toxicosis include
shortness of breath, nausea, salivation, vomiting,
diarrhoea and swelling of the lips, tongue and throat.                            Biology and Ecology
The toxins are still present in the plant when it has dried
off.                                                                              Star of Bethlehem is a perennial bulb often mistaken for
                                                                                  onion weed (Asphodelus fistulosus) or wild garlic (Allium
Star of Bethlehem is also an important weed in the                                vineale) however it does not have the distinctive odour
survival of barley leaf rust. Spores survive over summer                          of these species. It prefers moist to wet habitats and is
found in a range of situations including continuous                                          Management
cropping and pasture paddocks.
                                                                                             Identification and awareness of Star of Bethlehem,
The leaves are narrow and linear, have a waxy surface,                                       together with good farm hygiene, are important for
are dark green in colour with a white mid-rib and are                                        managing the weed due to the limited control options
approximately 10-30cm long and 0.25-0.5cm wide. They                                         available.
are hollow and tend to arch over as they grow longer.
                                                                                             As spread is predominantly via machinery, farm hygiene
Shortly after emergence in autumn, stems similar in                                          is imperative to prevent the spread of Star of Bethlehem.
length to the leaves (approximately 30cm) appear and                                         Thoroughly wash machinery when moving from areas of
flowers form on the end of these stems. The flowers are                                      known infestations and avoid the areas altogether where
white, have 6 petals measuring 1.25-1.9cm in diameter                                        possible, e.g. sow around infestations.
and resemble a star. The back of the petals are marked
with a distinctive green band. The flowers open in the                                       Physical removal of bulbs is the most effective form of
morning and close each night.                                                                eradication however it is only practical for small
                                                                                             infestations. Once the infested area becomes too large
Star of Bethlehem reproduces predominantly by the                                            for physical removal, control is very difficult. Star of
formation of bulbets on the parent bulb. The bulbs are                                       Bethlehem is near impossible to control in winter crops
white and 1.25-3.75cm in length with fibrous roots at the                                    and pastures and severe infestations are likely to need a
base and increase to form large clumps (Figure 3).                                           complete crop or pasture renovation.
Each bulb can produce up to 7 auxiliary bulbs (Southern
Illinois University 2003). Following flowering in spring,                                    There are no herbicides registered for the control of Star
the plants die back to the bulbs which remain dormant                                        of Bethlehem in dryland cropping systems in New South
over summer.                                                                                 Wales. Some are registered for use in Sugar Cane in
                                                                                             New South Wales and some are registered in
                                                                                             Queensland for other situations however the efficacy is

                                                                                             A small amount of research (mostly in America) has
                                                                                             been conducted to evaluate herbicides for the control of
                                                                                             Star of Bethlehem. The results indicate that
                                                                                             Gramoxone® is the only herbicide to provide effective
                                                                                             control the season following herbicide application.

                                                                                             Klingaman, G. (2006). Plant of the Week: Star of Bethlehem
                                                                                             (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Cooperative Extension Service, Division
                                                                      Photo: Trevor Haines

                                                                                             of Agriculture, University of Arkansas.

                                                                                             Wallwork, H., Mayfield, A. & Dillon, T. (1992) Control of Star of
                                                                                             Bethlehem: Farmer Report.

                                                                                             Southern Illinois University (2003). Star-of-Bethlehem Management
                                                                                             with Herbicides, Southern Illinois University Weed Research Annual.

Figure 3. Star of Bethlehem plants showing dense foliage and
high bulb density.

Further Information:            or


The information contained in this publication is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing (2008). However, because of advances in knowledge,
users are reminded of the need to ensure that information upon which they rely is up to date and to check currency of the information with the appropriate officer of
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries/Murrumbidgee Catchment Management Authority or the user’s independent adviser.

The product trade names in this publication are supplied on the understanding that no preference between equivalent products is intended and that the inclusion of a
product name does not imply endorsement by NSW Department of Primary Industries or Murrumbidgee CMA over any equivalent product from another manufacturer.

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conditions of any Permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or
omitted to be made in this publication.

                                                                                                                                   This project has been funded
                                                                                                                                   through the Australian and
                                                                                                                                   NSW Governments’ National
                                                                                                                                   Action Plan for Salinity and
                                                                                                                                   Water Quality.

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