Although nearly 150 ornithogalum species are known, fewer than five are regularly used as cut flowers. The flower's common name, Star of Bethlehem, is often applied to three of these blooms, despite their distinct differences. Ornithogalum thyrsoides, also commonly called chincerinchee, has dense, many-flowered blooms of white to creamy-white and is the flower sometimes associated with the Christmas holidays. Oumbellatum sports 30 or fewer glistening white flowers atop an open, flat-topped cluster, while Oarabicum features pearly up-facing flowers with a prominent shining black ovary on short, compact, pyramid-shaped racemes. The fourth species commonly used as a cut flower is Osaundersiae, which is similar to Oarabicum in that it features a decorative, beadlike ovary at the flower's center.
These bulbous, perennial herbs are natives of Africa, Europe and west Asia, and derive their name from the Greek words ornis, meaning "bird," and gala, meaning "milk." Although the name appears to reference the flowers' milky-white colors, its specific application is unknown.