Star of Bethlehem

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star-of-Bethlehem, in botany, low, spring-blooming bulbous plant (Ornithogalum umbellatum) of the family Liliaceae (lily family), native to the Mediterranean region but naturalized in North America and cultivated in gardens. The plant has rather stiff, grasslike leaves and a cluster of white star-shaped flowers marked on the back with green. It spreads easily and tends to become weedy. Although the fresh plant is poisonous, the bulbs have been prepared and used as food in the Old World. The flower has been associated with the star that guided the Wise Men to the manger (see Star of Bethlehem). The star-of-Bethlehem is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.

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Star of Bethlehem, name given to the luminous celestial object rising in the sky that, as related in the Gospel of Matthew, led the Wise Men of the East to the manger in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. According to astronomers, the phenomenon may represent the conjunction of the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, or the appearance of a nova or a comet.

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Star of Beth·le·hem • n. a resplendent star that is said to have guided the Magi to the birthplace of the infant Jesus.