Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Ornithogalum biflorum (Ruiz & Pav.) Don

Bulbous perennial with narrow leaves and greenish-white flowers in loose 6-20-flowered racemes.  To 30cm.  [RHSD].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

Introduced from Chile and Peru in 1832.  [JD].  ‘A native of Chili: we received it [Ornithogalum bifolium] from Mr. Cumming in the spring of 1831, and it flowered in August following.  Its height does not exceed a few inches.  The flowers are of a delicate white.  We have kept it in a greenhouse, but it will probably bear the winter in a sheltered place out of doors.  It will increase by offsets from the bulbs.’  [LBC no.1802/1832].

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [B.361/1843].  Ornithogalum biflorum is probably the plant grown by Macarthur as he listed Scilla biflora in a handwritten note in an 1850 catalogue.  [MP A2947A].


A less likely possibility is Ornithogalum arabicum L., synonym Ornithogalum corymbosum Ruiz & Pav., common name Peruvian star of Bethlehem.  Originally from the Mediterranean region it is naturalised in Chile and Peru.  It has thick, fleshy, linear leaves, to 2.5cm broad, and roundish 6-12-flowered racemes of large, aromatic white flowers with a black centre.  To 60cm.  [RHSD, Hortus].

‘It must be allowed that no distinctive character can be pointed out; and I cannot help suspecting, that it was introduced into Chili (where it is apparently wild) and into Peru (where it is only cultivated in gardens) […] by the early Spanish visitors.’  [BM t.3179/1832].  ‘That it is wild in Chili cannot be doubted.’  [BR f.906/1825].

Published Jan 09, 2010 - 03:43 PM | Last updated Jan 09, 2010 - 05:06 PM

Shown are two lance-shaped basal leaves and stem with cup-shaped white flowers.  Loddiges Botanical Cabinet no.1802, 1832.

Ornithogalum biflorum (Ruiz & Pav.) Don | LBC no.1802/1832 | HAAB

Family Hyacinthaceae
Region of origin

Chile and Peru but probably of Old World origin

  • Ornithogalum bifolium Lodd.
  • Scilla biflora Ruiz & Pav.
Common Name
Name in the Camden Park Record

Ornithogalum sp. from Chile   

Confidence level medium