Also known as ‘wonder-flower’ and ‘star-of-Bethlehem’, Chincherinchee’s genus name comes from the Greek phrase ‘bird’s milk’ – ornithos (bird) and gala (milk) – which was used to describe something outstanding.
South Africans know this flower as ‘tjenkenrientjee’ which is where the strange-sounding English name, ‘chincherinchee’, originates from.
Ornithogalum thyrsoides is native to South Africa and the Ornithogalum umbellatum is native to the Mediterranean. It is also endemic to the Cape Province in South Africa.
Chincherinchee is a perennial herb that grows to between 20cm and 50cm tall, with round bulbs that bloom in the late summer and become dormant in the winter months.
The plant has around five to seven fleshy leaves that die back after flowering and range from between 15cm and 30cm in length. The leaves are lance-shaped and smooth in texture.
Their star-shaped, bell-like flowers are very decorative and tend to be extremely fragrant, blooming individually in circles carried at the top of leafless stems.
Chincherinchee blooms between June and September.
The most common is Ornithogalum thyrsoides. Ornithogalum umbellatum, on the other hand, has larger star-shaped white flowers and narrower leaves, as well as a beautiful and very distinctive green stripe on each flower.
Ornithogalum arabicum has a long stem with a distinctive umbrella of waxy white flowers carrying a green-black ovary in the centre. Ornithogalum dubium is a lovely clear orange shade, and has cup-shaped flowers.
Water seldom, about once every 1-2 weeks with 1-2 glasses of water, allowing the soil to dry out for several days before watering again. Chincherinchee should be grown in direct sunlight and cannot abide temperatures below zero, so only when danger of the last frost is well and truly gone should you place outside, unprotected.
Did you know?
Sometimes called a “florist’s nightmare” because they have such a long vase life, and can very easily last a whole month after bring cut.