By Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Determining what is a weed can be tricky. What one gardener may welcome, another will criticize. Star of Bethlehem plants are a great example. Weed control for Star of Bethlehem may be necessary, but only if the plant is rampant in unwanted spaces. Learn more here.
Ornithogalum Plants range from 10 cm to 60 cm (4 to 24 inches) in height and are usually grown as half hardy or hardy bulbs in the garden.
Ornithogalum flowers in the spring or summer (species dependent) carrying star shaped bells of white, orange, or pale green flowers, atop leafless stems.
Some common names for Ornithogalum include Star of Bethlehem flower, Sun Star, Grass Lily, Eleven-o'clock Lady, and Chincherinchee.
It is estimated that there are between 50 and 300 members in this genus, with the exact number being argued by the plant taxonomists. Most plants are characterized by having star shaped flowers, linear basal leaves, and ovoid flower bulbs.
They make great plants to grow in a rockery, border, or containers and are at their best in the later months of spring at the start of summer. They are very fragrant and do well in sun or light shade. Beware that as these bulbous perennial plants produce offsets they are able to spread very quickly, with some species becoming invasive if not controlled properly.
Choose a location with a fertile loam that drains sharply, preferably in full sun. Plant the bulbs of Star of Bethlehem in fall. At planting time, install the bulbs in holes four inches deep and four inches apart. The pointy end of each bulb should be facing up. Fill the holes back in with soil and water. Add a three-inch layer of mulch for wintertime protection if Star of Bethlehem is only borderline-hardy in your area. Remove the mulch when the ground thaws in spring and the plants start to emerge.
The plants will come up the following spring. After flowering is over, you will be left with a mass of tangled, strap-like leaves for a while (its grass-like foliage is never really attractive). Resist the temptation to remove this foliage: As long as it stays green, it is sending nutrients down to its bulbs.
The bulbs will multiply over time, producing what are termed "offsets" or "bulbils." You can dig up these offsets and plant them somewhere else to increase your crop of Star of Bethlehem.
If you choose to leave you Star of Bethlehem alone, it will naturalize and spread on its own, too. It spreads both through its offsets and by seeding. This is one of the reasons why the plant is so easy to grow, but it also accounts for why Star of Bethlehem is often considered a problematic plant: Star of Bethlehem is invasive in some regions.
Because of its potential invasiveness, before you plant Star of Bethlehem, check with your county extension agent to learn if it is invasive in your region. Another drawback with Star of Bethlehem is that it goes dormant by mid-summer, leaving gaps in your planting bed. Different gardeners address these drawbacks in different ways.
To curb the plant's spreading, some deadhead the flowers so that seed is not produced and/or erect barriers as you would to stop the spread of a bamboo. To plug the gaps that its disappearance leaves behind in summer, some plan on having annuals on hand to install, while others prefer to grow perennials next to their Star of Bethlehem that will fill in as summer progresses and hide the spots vacated by Star of Bethlehem.
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The exact date of Jesus Christ's birth is a contested topic among historians and theologians alike. But regardless of whether Jesus was born on December 25 or not, most Christian denominations agree Christ was the prophesied Messiah and the Son of God. The Bible's Gospel of Matthew pinpoints the location of Jesus's birth as the small town of Bethlehem in the modern-day West Bank, Palestine.
Scripture says Jesus was born in an extremely humbling environment to his mother Mary and his earthly father Joseph.
The Bible makes it clear in the gospels that Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit and his genealogy can be traced to the famous King David.
The Book of Matthew reads: "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'"
Standing over the believed location of Christ's birth today is the Church of the Nativity, a Byzantine house of worship also known as the Basilica of the Nativity.
Tom Meyer, a professor of Bible studies at Shasta Bible College and Graduate School in California, US, told Express.co.uk evidence of Christ's divine birth rests within the ancient church.
Jesus Christ's birth: A scripture expert has said there is proof Jesus was the Jewish Messiah (Image: GETTY)
Jesus Christ: The Church of the Nativity in the city of Bethlehem (Image: GETTY)
Originally raised by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, the basilica was built between the years 330 and 33 BC.
The church was destroyed some 200 years later in the sixth century AD but was rebuilt by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
Professor Meyer said: "At the east end of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity is a cave that has a 14-pointed silver star laid on a marble pavement marking the spot venerated by Christians for millennia as the birthplace of Jesus Christ."
And according to the Bible expert, the star's 14 points paired with the Gospel of Matthew can reveal Christ's divine origin.
He said: "The gospel of Matthew was written with a specific audience in mind: Jews.
"Also, it was written with a specific purpose: to demonstrate that Jesus was the Son of David, the fulfilment of many Old Testament prophecies, and the rightful heir to the Davidic Throne.
"When Matthew recorded the family tree of Jesus through the line of Joseph, he was very careful to break the genealogy into three sections of 14 names each.
"Matthew deliberately omitted names from his primary source, 1 Chronicles, to format the genealogy into three parts of 14 names."
This first section of 14 names begins with the prophet Abraham and ends with King David, the third ruler of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.
According to Professor Meyer, this section spans some 1,200 years of ancient Israel's history and signifies the notion Israel was "born for greatness".
Professor Meyer said: "But the second section of 14 names which begins with David and ends with the Jews being sent into Babylonian exile in 586 BC emphasizes the shameful history of Israel, full of unbelief, apostasy, and divine judgment.
Israel archaeology: Five incredible sites mapped out (Image: EXPRESS)
Jesus Christ's birth: The silver star is set over the spot where Mary is said to have given birth (Image: GETTY)
"This second section which covers the 400 years of David and his descendants ruling from the throne in Jerusalem ends with the idea that Israel has lost its greatness.
"The third section covers a period of 600 years and also has 14 names.
"But in this third and final section even though most of the men are unknown to historians, they were legitimate descendants of David and thus rightful heirs to the throne."
The family tree then culminates with the birth of Jesus Christ, which Professor Meyer believes marks a revival of royal power.
Jesus was given the title of Christ upon his birth, which in Hebrew means Messiah or the "anointed".
Professor Meyer said: "This is just part of the motive behind shaping Jesus’ genealogy into groups of 14.
Jesus Christ's birth: The Bible says Christ's geneaology is traced to king David (Image: GETTY)
"Additionally, the 14-pointed silver star is linked directly to the name David.
"Due to the fact that in ancient Hebrew, letters could stand in for numbers, every person’s name had a numerical value."
For example, the letters a, b and c could stand in for the numbers one, two and three.
In Hebrew, Professor Meyer said the named David represents the numbers of four, six and four as ancient Hebrew did not have written vowels.
Added together, the numbers add up to 14, which the expert claims proves his theory.
He said: "So, when you “add up” the meaning of history, the bottom line is that Jesus Christ is the Son of David, the Jewish Messiah."
There are, of course, those who do not embrace Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
According to the Judaic faith, for instance, Jesus did not fulfil the messianic prophecies the Hebrew Bible has laid out for the coming of the Messiah.
Historians also argue the accepted accounts of Jesus's life - the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John - cannot be taken at face value because they were likely written many decades after Jesus died.
And atheists will outright challenge the idea of God and divinity, instead stating Jesus of Nazareth was a revolutionary figure who preached love and unity but at the end of the day was human.
What is true, however, is that billions of people across the globe have embraced Christianity, forming the world's biggest religion.
Although scientists have ruled out several possibilities, we may never know for sure what the Star of Bethlehem was or if it even really happened, barring some remarkable archaeological finding. But it's a question that comes up year after year, and it will continue to pique the interest of scientists and historians alike for many years to come.
"Nothing in science is ever case closed, nor is it in history," Mathews said. "We may never know if the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction, astrological event or a fable to advance Christianity. Maybe it was simply a miracle."
This article was adapted from a previous version published in All About Space magazine, a Future Ltd. publication.