Star of Bethlehem (God, Help Me)

Last week I told you about my tendency to stray from my shopping list while at the garden center. Thanks for all your comments; I’m glad to know I’m in good company with my mish-mash garden. I’m in the midst of expanding my perennial border to hold more plants; I spent a good part of last Saturday ripping up more lawn and trying to clear one very dastardly weed out of the way.

(Note—this photo isn’t of my yard—I didn’t think to take a “before” picture when I started weeding. But it looked a lot like this. Image source.)

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum)—I noticed it last spring, our first spring in this house, and since there really wasn’t much interesting in the yard at that point, I let it grow and bloom. Just one little clump down by the sidewalk. It seemed so pretty, delicate, harmless. A grassy little plant with five or six white-and-green flowers waving in the breeze. A nice surprise.

Fast forward to this spring. Boom! Surprise! Our front lawn is a galaxy of star of Bethlehem. Big clumps, little clumps, here, there, everywhere. I’ve read that it only spreads by offsets (it’s a bulb), but it must spread by seed, too, because these plants are so far from the original clump. Or maybe they were there last year but I mowed them before they had a chance to bloom?

Well in any case a big portion of lawn and all the star of Bethlehem have got to go, to make room for more garden. So Saturday afternoon I chipped away at it. Wow, its bulbs are deep! And when you finally get to them, you find one big bulb with a billion little baby bulbs surrounding it. I tried hard not to let even the tiniest (I’m talking smaller than a seed bead) little bulb slip back into the earth, because I’m sure it would grow and multiply by next spring. Even still, I know this will be a drawn-out battle, because I was not able to get the bulb and roots in a few places—the stems just snapped off before I could dig down. I’m really not one to swear, but I found myself thinking it’s a strange coincidence that its initials are SOB.

What is your worst weed? Tell us about your battle.

Oh—and please don’t be charmed by star of Bethlehem!

Related Posts:

45 thoughts on “Star of Bethlehem (God, Help Me)

  1. yucca plants are like sob…the nore i dig up the worse it gets…3 years now…any hints or clues as how to get rid of it forever…ever since i had them dug up from it original place the yuccas have spred eveywhere..even under the pavers!!! help!!

  2. in my area, north texas, nutgrass is a problem, once it gets in your lawn, it is there forever. I do not use chemicals so I dig it up by hand. One must get the entire root out of the ground. nutgrass will drive you nuts!!!

  3. Star of Bethlehem…I can think of another meaning for the acronym SOB. I have YEARS of experience with SOB, including a chunk of a backyard maybe 15’x 50′ that was entirely made up of the things, with a little Prickly Lettuce and a number of Malva neglecta. Oh, and they definitely seed themselves–I’ve seen the pod, the seed and the seedling. Also, SOB doesn’t respond much at all to herbicides because its leaves are coated with a waxy substance that protects them.
    The trick, if you’ve got clumps big enough to firmly grasp around the base, is to wait until the soil is very moist very deep. I usually make the most progress in spring, after the snow melts into the ground and everything is wet, but a really good watering can also do the trick. You grasp the clump as close to the base of it as you can get, including as many leaves as possible, and SLOWLY but firmly start pulling, preferably not straight up: it’s easier to detach the side of a clump first. Then, again slowly pull the clump in the other direction. You should feel some roots breaking away. Lift the clump out slowly to avoid knocking off bulblets and throw it away! Unless you have a compost heap that really does get to 140-160 degrees F. I dread to think how many SOBs there are at the landfill.
    Check the hole for loose bulblets and get the easy ones (if you try to get them all you’ll go bananas), and then either fill in the hole with whatever you’d like or, as I’ve done too many times to count, don’t fill it in and turn your ankle on it later in the summer.

  4. LILY OF THE VALLEY! Such a pretty, aromatic flower, but boy-oh-boy does it spread! I dig & dig every year & feel that I have put a dent in the abundance of it, but if you leave one little section, it just takes off from there. I have even gone so far as to dig up all my perennials, bare-root them, rinse the roots & replant but that “sweet” little flower keeps returning! Also that pretty little violet – same problem. I have been lucky (I guess) that I have been able to keep them out of the lawn so far, but I think if I let up just a little that the little darlings will wander into my lawn!

  5. Mugwort!!!! I feel I will never get rid of it! Have tried round-up, and it wilts a little. A true curse in the garden. I can’t believe the Colonials planted it in their herb gardens.

  6. amen to the rhizome issue…i’ve got a ton of incredibly prolific weeds, but when you get a root system like bindweed, or canada thistle, you’re just never gonna see the actual end of that weed no matter how much effort you put in!
    i guess my worst weed in some ways is ranunculus ficaria, based on how scary-fast it spreads, and it’s a bulb too like star of bethlehem. i’m wondering if it is one of the weeds that have become more rapidly invasive as the levels of co2 have increased in our atmosphere, like poison ivy. this year’s particularly frightening weed, though, has been garlic mustard. on the increase here (central nj) for the past few years, this year it bloomed in astonishingly large swaths in our ‘back forty’. fortunately the ground has been kept moist by regular rain, and it has been very easy to pull. but i’m scrambling to try to get all the blooming ones out before those seed pods mature and pop, and doom me to seven MORE years of the stuff!

  7. I hate quack grass. It grows really fast here. The rhizomes grow deep and long, and the only way to get it out of my lawn is to spray herbicide and start over.
    This area also has trouble with bindweed, creeping charlie, and canadian thistle. I’d take dandelions over rhizomatous weeds any time.

Leave a Reply