Beautiful but Deadly

Over the past week, several clumps of star-of-bethlehem have appeared in our flower beds and along our wood border.  Also known as grass lilies, these beautiful immigrants are native to Eurasia; they escaped cultivation in North America and are now widely dispersed in moist, Temperate regions of the Continent.

Characterized by showy, white, star-shaped flowers and grass-like leaves, star-of-bethlehem produces small seeds but reproduces primarily by division of their bulbs; like daylilies, these geophytes are thus often found in dense clumps.  Botanists have long argued whether this wildflower should be grouped with lilies, hyacinths or members of the asparagus family; depending on latitude, they bloom from April to early June.

As is often the case in the plant world, the beauty of grass lilies comes with a price.  All portions of the plant are toxic to mammals (humans included) and this wildflower, which often adorns pastures, has been known to kill livestock.