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star-of-Bethlehem, in botany, low, spring-blooming bulbous plant ( Ornithogalum umbellatum ) of the family Liliaceae (lily family), native to the Mediterranean region but naturalized in North America and cultivated in gardens. The plant has rather stiff, grasslike leaves and a cluster of white star-shaped flowers marked on the back with green. It spreads easily and tends to become weedy. Although the fresh plant is poisonous, the bulbs have been prepared and used as food in the Old World. The flower has been associated with the star that guided the Wise Men to the manger (see Star of Bethlehem). The star-of-Bethlehem is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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