Syn. Tomoxis coarctata / Myogalum thyrsoides / Eliokarmos ceresianus / Eliokarmos coarctatum / Eliokarmos thyrsoides / Lomaresis alba / Myogalum coarctatum / Ornithogalum bicolor / Ornithogalum ceresianum / Ornithogalum coarctatum / Ornithogalum conicum / Ornithogalum gilgianum / Ornithogalum grimaldiae / Ornithogalum hermannii / Ornithogalum revolutum

  • Chincherinchee
  • Chink
  • Wonder-flower
  • Star-of-Bethlehem
  • Cape Chincherinchee
  • Tjienkerientjee (A)
  • Tjienk (A)
  • Wit-tjienk (A)


  • One of the best known of the chinks, this is an upright growing, bulbous geophyte which has gained worldwide acclaim for its durable, ethereal blooms and has also been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. It bears a tall, graceful flower stem upon which rests a pyramidical or elegantly rounded flowerhead that consists of more than a dozen petite, exceptionally beautiful, ivory to faintly buttery coloured, starry blooms, each with a prominent, dusky green eye. This species was first described in the late 1770’s and the unusual common name, which is believed to refer to the sound the glossy, firm flower stems make when they are rubbed together by strong winds, has been used for more than a century. The genus name ‘Ornithogalum’ is an amalgamation of the ancient Greek words for bird, “ornis, and milk, ‘gala”. It is believed to refer to an olden day name for a bulbous plant with white flowers, but the term “bird’s milk” was also used to describe something highly unusual and/or beautiful.


  • Hyacinthaceae (The Hyacinth family) -formerly placed in the Liliaceae family)


  • The Chincherinchee is a native of the winter rainfall Cape province.

  • It is most commonly found growing in arenaceous grassland situations, on lower mountain slopes, in damp depressions and in sandy coastal areas; it is often seen growing in large colonies.

  • It has however adapted to a wide variety of habitats, including summer rainfall areas and places with clayish and disturbed soils.

  • Occurs from the Western Cape peninsula to the Northern and Eastern Cape.


  • Deciduous.

  • It has a bulky, rotund underground bulb (40 – 60 mm diam.), from which arises 5-12, softly fleshy, grass-like, narrowly lanceolate leaves (150 – 300 x 5 – 15 mm) that are produced annually, typically with the flowers.

  • These banded basal leaves spread and curve gracefully outwards and are dusky yellowish-green and smooth to the touch.


  • The inflorescence is supported by a fleshy stalk (250 – 400 mm), and is in the form of a dense, deltoid or circular raceme containing up to 30 or more flowers.

  • The dainty, white to creamy-white flowers are held at erect angles and are distinctly flat cup or bowl-shaped, with a prominent dark greenish-brown centre that discolours with age.

  • Each flower is subtended by a stout, boat-shaped, green bract of approximately the same length as the pedicel.

  • The flowers are phototropic.

  • September – February.


  • The seeds are small, diversely shaped, glossy and black.

  • The seeds are carried in a fusiform, thin-walled capsule that dehisces in a lengthwise manner.


  • 400 – 700 mm.


  • 100 – 300 mm.


  • These bulbs are very popular in the floricultural trade as the cut flowers last for an exceptionally long time.
  • When steeped in water, they will absorb and take on the colour of food dyes added to the water, making them versatile and beautiful to boot.


  • All parts of these bulbs contain toxic compounds.
  • Skin irritation and other allergic reactions have been reported when these parts come into contact with skin.
  • Ingestion may prove fatal, especially in livestock.


  • The flowers provide food to honey and occasionally Carpenter bees, as well as butterflies and many other small insects and beetles.
  • The insects drawn to the flowers may entice insectivorous birds to the garden.


  • These pretty bulbs are a must have for the avid florist as they make excellent and supremely long-lasting (up to 14 days) cut flowers for a variety of flower arrangements.

  • They can be planted, and look very beautiful, in containers and can be grown on patios.

  • The flowers are very attractive, and these bulbs make fine focal specimens. Suitable for small and coastal gardens.

  • They tolerate a wide range of different soil types.

  • The Chincherinchee is perfect for mass planting, and also looks marvellous in a mixed flower border or bed.

  • They require little to no upkeep and do not require pruning, lifting or dividing for several years, as well as being relatively pest and disease free.

  • It can be planted in disturbed soils and on steep slopes and embankments.


  • The Chincherinchee is only half-hardy to drought and frost.
  • It can survive the occasional dry or cold spell provided it is not too long lasting or severe.
  • In exceedingly cold areas it is best to plant it in a very sheltered position, preferably indoors, or the bulbs should be dug up and stored in a temperate environment during winter and replanted in spring.
  • Tolerates occasional waterlogging and a variety of soils.

Growth Rate

  • Moderate to fast, achieving its ultimate height within 2 years.


  • Full sun or partial, dappled shade.

Soil & Water

  • Plant in a porous, well-draining, neutral to slightly acidic soil.
  • These bulbs accept sandy, gritty loamy, peaty or somewhat clayish soils, but the latter must have good draining capabilities.
  • They will benefit from a bit of added compost or organic fertiliser but resent over-feeding.
  • Feed once per growing season.
  • Water well in spring and summer, less in autumn and give no extra water in winter when they are dormant.


  • The preferred, and most convenient means of propagation is by removal of offsets during the plants dormant phase.
  • Theses should be carefully split from the parent bulb with a sharp, clean object.
  • Plant these in early spring into a well-drained, fertile growing medium.
  • Place the offsets approximately 6-8 cm deep in the soil and about 15 cm apart.
  • Water well but do not overwater and let the soil become waterlogged. It can be grown from seed, but this is often more difficulty to achieve and the plant will take that much longer to start producing flowers.
  • Seeds should be sown into a similar medium and placed in a temperate, brightly-lit area.

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