Classification, origin and description
Common name: Ornithogallo
Typology: Perennials, Bulbose
Propagation: division of bulbs, seed
Etymology: the name of the genus comes from the Greek ornis = hen e gala = milk, that is, chicken's milk, and refers to the white latex that comes out of the broken branches or to the milky white color of the flowers.
The genus includes a hundred species, partly of African origin, partly originating in Europe and the Mediterranean regions and some also of South America. The best known species is O. thyrsoides, which provides long-lasting and easily imported cut flowers from South Africa, where it grows spontaneously. Some species are also spontaneous in our country and are discreetly cultivated in gardens.
Ornithogalum thyrsoides - Ornithogalum thyrsoides var. aureum
How it is grown
Species from Africa do not naturally tolerate frost: however, they can also be grown in the North, provided that, as in the case of the Gladioli, in autumn the bulbs are removed from the ground. They grow well in a good garden soil, light, porous and preferably sandy. They propagate by division of the bulbs during egetative rest or by sowing in a hot greenhouse, in the spring. To obtain flowering plants from seed it takes 2-3 years.
Ornithogalum arabicum (photo www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca)
Ornthogalum umbellatum L. (photo http://biosimples.com)
Species and varieties
- Ornithogalum thyrsoides Jacq .: species native to South Africa. It is called Cincerinci (from the English Chinkerinchee) in imitation of the sound that the stems produce when they are broken or rubbed against each other. It is cultivated for the production of cut flowers. In the north it can be grown by burying the bulbs in spring and removing them in autumn, and sheltering them, in winter, in dry rooms. The aureum variety is lower and has yellow-orange flowers.
- Ornithogalum arabicum L .: species native to the Mediterranean regions, in Italy it is widespread in the coastal areas of the South and in the islands. The leaves are linear, light green, longer than the floral stem which bears an inflorescence in racemes also composed of 12 pearl white flowers, fragrant, with a scrupulous center. The plant does not tolerate intense frost. It blooms in May-June.
- Ornithogalum nutans L .: species native to Europe and Asia Minor, wild throughout the Italian peninsula. It is appreciated for its large and pendulous flowers, in one-sided racemes, silver white or greenish, which appear in March-May. Cultivation is easy. It has linear, fluted leaves and an egg-shaped, non-proliferating bulb.
- Ornithogalum umbellatum L .: species native to the Mediterranean regions, including Italy. It is commonly called chicken milk or white onion. In England it is called Star or Bethelehem. The green-streaked white flowers are collected in racemes, and open in the late morning to gather again in the evening. The leaves are linear. It blooms in April-June.
Diseases, pests and adversities
They are plants resistant to attacks by animal parasites (those of aphids possible); water stagnation can favor the onset of root rot.