This plant is brought to you by one of the project's sponsors:
Moresupport is needed for this website [ read more ]

Contents Links




Photo Gallery

Further Info & Links

Buy Seeds and Docs

Submit own info
about this plant

Give a small Donation Online


Copyright Info


Main Index

Visitor hits (May/06)

Species name:

Ornithogalum divergens   Boreau.


Alexandre Boreau
   France, 1803-1875

Common name:

Lesser Star of Bethlehem

Maltese name:

Halib it-Tajr Skars

Plant Family:

Hyacinthaceae   (Hyacinth Family)

Name Derivation:

Ornithogalum = 'Ornis' = bird; 'galos' = milk; hence it means Bird's milk. (Greek);

divergens = Spreading out widely from the centre, referring to the individual flowers with respect to the central stem. (Latin).


Ornithogalum umbellatum L. subsp. umbellatum var. divergens, Ornithogalum paterfamilias, Ornithogalum umbellatum L. subsp. paterfamilias.


This species has not been reported on the Maltese islands for several decades and eventually, it was considered as extinct and reported so in the red data book. The author (Mr. Stephen Mifsud) has encountered this species on 2nd April 2006 in a garigue near il-Bosk, an area close to Buskett Gardens, Rabat. Other populations were found in the vicinity or in Buskett Gardens by others persons between 2002- 2006 namely Alex Casha, Timothy Tabone, Martin Psaila and Sdravko vesselinov.

Plant Description

Life Cycle:



Rocky ground near arable land

Sources in Malta:

Very Rare; few species were reported recently after several years of disappearance. Locations remain undisclosed for protecting the plant.

Plant Height:


Flowering Time:


A small and low-growing perennial plant formed from a small, tunic-coated bulb. This Ornithogalum species differs from the others mainly in the growth form, since instead of producing a solitary tall scape of dense or numerous cluster of flowers, it produces few flowers which their long supporting peduncle diverge away from the next peduncle. They actually look as solitary, terminal flowers on a branched flowering stem.

This plant forms few, glabrous, narrow leaves (about 5mm broad) that grows out directly from the bulb. They are rather inconspicuous among other surrounding vegetation.

The white flowers are 3cm to 4cm in diameter and possess rather long stalklets (referred as peduncles) which are curved up for the upper flowers and straight for the lower ones. The number of flowers produced is few, between 2 to 6 and they do not blossom at the same time. Blossoming occurs during full sunshine.

The star-shaped flowers are composed of 6 quasi-identical tepals that are mostly non-overlapping (except slightly at their base). The colour of the upper-face of the tepals is all white but there is a conspicuous, broad green band at the under side. This green band is more broad in the lower whorl of tepals (= 'sepals') while for the upper whorl (= 'petals') the green band have a more decorated shape of a flame-tongue.

The flower have 6 erect, extrorse stamens encircling the central, superior ovary. Each stamen have a white filament with a prominent, triangular flap-like structure. It is broad at the base and tapering above. The filaments are broad enough that their 'flaps' are found touching each other, hence giving an overall impression of a small white crown around the ovary. The anthers are white or cream but not yellow.

The ovary is not a perfectly globose structure, as found in the other Ornithogalum species present in Malta, but instead, it is divided into 6 well-visible longitudinal lobes. The ovary is yellow and have a small central white style and stigma. The stigma had 3 swellings. The fertilised ovary develops into a fruit capsule that resembles an upside down bowling pin. Fruit ripen in May-June where it splits open into 3 parts to release the numerous stored seeds. No special means of seed dispersion is present for this plant. The seeds simply fall down onto the ground and maybe they are carried away by ants.

Photo Gallery

Photo of a plant in situ. Foliage not much visible since it is hidden in the surrounding vegetation, but the flowers are quite showy.
Photo of the beautiful flower of the Lesser Star of Bethlehem. This population was found in the South-West of Malta on the 2nd April 2006. The population of this site was never discovered before in Malta, and other populations of O. divergens were recent ely discovered during these last 2-4 years after being believed to be extinct for many decades.
Photo of 2 flowers of Ornithogalum divergens, star shaped and pure semi-glossy white in colour.
Side view photo of flower showing the underside details of the tepals. They have a green central band with a thin white border. In this specimen, the thickness of the green band of the outer whorl of tepals (=sepals) is wider from the inner whorl (=petals)
Photo of the star-shaped flower, with identical tepals and triangular stamen's filaments.
Photo of flower in situ. Just below is a young blossoming bud.
Close up photo of the central part of the flower showing its 6 stamens and a central pistil. Each stamen consists of a flap-like filament and white to pale cream anther. The pistil is made of a superior yellow-mustard ovary with a central erect style.

Photos from Google Info Link 2 (in Italian)
Info Link 3 (in French) Info Link 4

Buy from and support MaltaWildPlants.com

Buy samples of seeds of certain wild plants for your studies, trials, research, etc. Not all species' seeds can be exported (depending on Maltese regulations), and availability depends on season of species. So, before any payment, you are kindly asked to fill in the online quotation/order form by which I can contact you back for availability and charges.   Online Quotation

  Online Payment
Buy documents related to Maltese Wild Plants such as the list of references, full profile, or other docs you request.   Online Payment
Buy any of my own copyright images found in this large collection of Maltese flora. You should first select the image you want to buy and input its corresponding code (found beneath each individual photo) in the online ordering form.   Online Payment
Kindly donate any sum of money (from 2USD / 2Euro) to help us covering some expenses needed to maintain Maltawildplants.com. Please bear in mind how much hard work such a large and up-to-date website needs to arrive directly to you home, office or library. Your kind donations are both greatly appreciated and recorded for future reference. Donors asking help will have first que preference for assistance and special attention.   Online Donation

Submit More Information

Use the form below to submit more information about this plant or a related species. Later on, this info will be included in this plant profile. You are kindly asked to provide the reference(s) from which the written information is taken. If it is your own observation or reference, simply write how you wish to be cited. Otherwise input the book or website from where your information is taken.

Your Email address will never be displayed online, it is just for internal communication.

You can also report the location where you have seen this particular plant on the Maltese islands to have a more extensive floral map of our islands.

Finally you can report any corrections needed for erranous data found in any part of this plant profile. This will definitely help to make this resource become better and more accurate.

To have more details about each particular field, just move your mouse on it and wait for the help message to pop up

* = required fields.
Plant Species *
Your name *
Your Email *
Fill any of the following 3 sections below (A, B or/and C) and send the form. - Thank you.
A:  Additional Information about this plant species
Own observations
Your Reference:
Additional Info 1
Additional Info 2
B:   Where have you seen this plant on the Maltese Islands?
Locations in Malta or Gozo where you have encountered this plant.
Mostly applies for locally frequent to rare plants.

1:        2:   
3:       4:   
5:       6:   

Try to be as concise as possible. Examples: Dingli Cliffs (near chapel), Wied Incita (Zebbug side), Golden Bay, Triq il-Kbira (Qormi), Barriera ta' Abdul (Xlendi), Fields near salib tal-gholja (Siggiewi), Buskett (Verdala side), Chadwik Lakes (Fiddien side) and other such locations around Malta and Gozo. GPS readings are welcomed too! Thank you.
C:  Corrections for mistakes and errors in this plant profile.
Section of this plant Profile page where you found an error (select one)

What is the error/mistake
What should be its correction

All material and data on this webpage is under the copyright of the author of this site - Stephen Mifsud / www.MaltaWildPlants.com / Malta. (2002-2010)
This research project about the flora of Malta is sponsored by: