This section is from the book "An Illustrated Flora Of The Northern United States, Canada And The British Possessions Vol1", by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Addison Brown. Also available from Amazon: An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 Volume Set..
Scapose herbs, with coated bulbs, narrow basal fleshy leaves, and large white or yellow flowers in a terminal bracted corymb or raceme. Perianth-segments equal or nearly so, separate, white, or sometimes green without, persistent, faintly several-nerved. Stamens hypogy-nous; filaments flattened, often broad; anthers versatile, introrse. Ovary 3-celled, sessile; ovules several or numerous in each cavity; style short or columnar, 3-sided; stigma capitate, 3-lobed or 3-ridged. Capsule subglobose, 3-sided or 3-lobed, loculicidal. Seeds black. [Greek, signifying bird's milk, said to be in allusion to the egg-white color of the flowers in some species.]
About 75 species, natives of Europe, Asia and Africa. Type species: O. arabicum L.
Flowers corymbose, erect; pedicels long, slender.
Flowers racemose, drooping; pedicels very short, stout.
Ornithogalum umbellatum L. Sp. PI. 307. 1753.
Tufted, bulbs ovoid, 1/2-1 1/2 long, the coats membranous. Scape slender, 4'-12' high; leaves narrowly linear, I -2 1/2" wide, dark green with a light midvein, blunt, equalling or longer than the scapes; flowers corymbose, opening in sunshine; bracts membranous, linear-lanceolate, mostly shorter than the pedicels; pedicels erect or ascending, the lower l'-3' long; perianth-segments oblong-lanceolate, acute, white above, green with white margins beneath, 6"-10" long, about twice as long as the stamens; filaments somewhat flattened, not toothed.
Ornithogalum nutans L. Sp. PI. 308. 1753.
Bulb ovoid, 1-2' long. Scape stout, 1°-2° high; leaves usually equalling the scape or longer, blunt, 2"-4" wide; flowers several or numerous, racemose, nodding; raceme 3'-8' long, loose; pedicels stout, 2"-6" long; bracts lanceolate, long-acuminate, much longer than the pedicels, often as long as the flowers; perianth-segments thin, oblong-lanceolate, about 1' long and 4" wide, nearly twice as long as the stamens; filaments broad, flat, 2-toothed at the apex.
Escaped from gardens in eastern and southern Pennsylvania, and in the District of Columbia. Native of Europe. April-May. The bulbs of this and other species have for centuries past been a portion of the food of Italy, the Levant and other parts of the Old World.