“It’s Full of Stars” of Bethlehem

[caption: upon looking at my yard]

While recovering from migraine during freakishly warm February days, I pull weeds. Slowly, gently, quietly, and in the shade. So far, I have filled an entire 30 gallon Leaf Bag with nothing but one kind of weed. My worst weed. The weed I wish would die in a supernova: the Star of Bethlehem.

I’ve ranted about this plant before (here), but I rant again because on every public occasion when I point to the foliage or the flowers and proclaim the thuggery of this twinkling plant, I am met with disbelief.
“Oh, but it’s so sweet!” gush the disbelievers. Sweet, pretty, adorable, etc.

All true. I used to make sweet, pretty, adorable bouquets of the flowers—all the flowers—in hopes that plucking them would prevent seed-formation, and perhaps reduce the number of new Stars next Spring.

But plucking did not work. Digging did not work. Smothering with cardboard did not work. Repeated removal of leaves did not work. Nothing works. New constellations continue to spread across the yard.

Luckily, the foliage dies down after flowers fade, and then I can forget about Stars till next winter.

[bulbs / Feb & March foliage in yards / April flowers]

Why do I hate Stars of Bethlehem? Because those dense clusters of bulbs hog the legit real estate of my Spring Beauties. And when I dig up the bulbs, I very often dig up the Spring Beauties they’ve hijacked. I take this personally.

And then there’s the bigger picture about Stars being from another continent, and not being a functioning part of the ecosystem here. They are toxic to mammals (including us) and reptiles. If they fed neighborhood bunnies, or birds, or box turtles, then my heart wouldn’t harden so comprehensively.

But don’t take my word for it that these beauties are thugs: take the word of the Tennessee Invasive Plant Council, Invasive.org, and the U.S. Forest Service.
“Once established, it spreads across the forest floor and displaces many species of native spring ephemeral plants.”

Just last week I noticed oodles of dark clumps at Centennial Park, and worse, as a green carpet outside the Cave Spring at Shelby dog park. Granted, these Metro Parks aren’t the “forest floor,” but they are the habitat park creatures depend upon.

In February and March (here in Nashville), Stars are all leaves and no stars. The foliage looks similar to wild onion, but flat, and with a silver stripe down the middle of each leaf.
The bulbs are white and also similar to wild onion but never smells of onion.
Blooms usually wait until April. Then the foliage turns yellow and mushy before it all disappears. But meanwhile, the bulbs are making more bulbs, and there will be more Stars next year.

Please do not share Stars at Plant Swaps?

Native Alternative:
About those Plant Swaps: here’s a great, native lookalike I wish we could all share.
False Garlic / Crow Poison / Nothoscordum bivalve!
See this page at Illinois Wildflowers, here.
And this pic from my yard, where False Garlic simply showed up:

[native False Garlic]

-Good ID pics / info on Star of Bethlehem at this Invasive Plant of the Month post, here.
-How to dispose of these thugs? Good question. I pondered that here, and am still searching for the Good answer.

My kid said my meme (top pic) was a “Boomer meme,” and not funny, and he is probably right. But I made it to reference the famous scene in 2001 Space Odyssey, and it cracks me up.


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Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss at SidewalkNature.com and on Instagram (@Jo_Brichetto); and her essays have appeared in Creative NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, City Creatures, The Fourth River and other journals. An almanac of urban nature encounters is forthcoming.

One thought on ““It’s Full of Stars” of Bethlehem

  1. Joanna— YOU CRACK ME UP! I love your voice, but I’m sorry you’ve been migraine-ridden. 2 questions: how DO we get rid of these thugs, and how do I get the onion substitute??? I’m forwarding to Mary D, who I should think would be thrilled to hear your voice, even though she has no yard to examine for Stars….. :)!!! mcs

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