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Flower Classic Gets a New Fire--and Double Life / September 3, 1998 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Star of Bethlehem

Flower Classic Gets a New Fire--and Double Life

By Jill Lee
September 3, 1998

When consumers hear about a new Star-of- Bethlehem lily, they think of white-flowered members of the species Ornithogalums. But now three new lilies, Chesapeake Blaze, Sunburst and Sunset, are putting a special fire in this floral family.

That's because these new types burst out in yellow, gold or fiery orange bouquets. Their flower stems are not tall like star-of-Bethlehem, but short and more suitable as a houseplant. Essentially, consumers get two kinds of plants in one.

Most flower lovers know the trick of forcing bulbs to bloom indoors out of season by refrigerating bulbs before planting. With the Chesapeake series of Ornithogalums, a cold treatment is not necessary. Under cool conditions, these bulbs can be evergreen and flower throughout the year.

Traditional star-of-Bethlehem lilies are even mentioned in the Bible. Their tall stems of bright, star-shaped flowers grace many Christmas and Easter bouquets. In addition to being used as cut flowers, these bulbs are planted in southern climates as spring-flowering bulbs.

Agricultural Research Service geneticist Robert Griesbach of the Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit of the U.S. National Arboretum and Fred Meyer of New World Plants in Escondido, Calif., created the Chesapeake series of Ornithogalums. The Arboretum is administered by ARS, the principal research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The new plants just became available from Bay City Flower Company in Half Moon Bay, Calif. The company will be distributing them nationwide.

Scientific contact: Robert J. Griesbach, ARS Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit, U.S. National Arboretum, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-6574, fax (301) 504-5096, griesbac@asrr.arsusda.gov.

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