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The Amaryllis Family: Genus Sternbergia

The genus Sternbergia in the Amaryllis Family (Amaryllidaceae) is endemic to Eurasia. They are herbaceous perennials growing from a true bulb. The flowers are borne in an umbel, a cluster at the top of the peduncle or stalk.

The genus is related to the Eurasian group of amaryllid genera, most closely related to Pancratium.

Sternbergia is native to the Mediterranean region, extending into the Middle East. The genus Sternbergia has one hardy species, lutea, that grows well in North American gardens, although it is scarcely known there. The flowers appear in the autumn and the foliage grows through the winter. All the species live in climates with hot, dry summers.

Sternbergia lutea, just opening in late September

The genus has been collected intensively from the wild and is listed as endangered. It can only be shipped internationally with CITES permits.

There are numerous species and subspecies in the genus:

alexandrae Sosn.
   Synonym of S. colchiciflora
americana Hoffmanns.
   Synonym of Zephyranthes americana
aurantiaca Dinsm.
   Synonym of S. lutea
candida B.Mathew & T.Baytop
   Distribution: SW Turkey
   Spring flowering, white flowers
caucasica (M.Bieb.) Willd.
   Synonym of Colchicum trigynum
citrina (Herb.) Ker Gawl. ex Schult. & Schult.f.
   Synonym of S. colchiciflora
clusiana (Ker Gawl.) Ker Gawl. ex Spreng.
   Distribution: Turkey to western Iran
   Autumn-flowering, golden yellow flowers
colchiciflora Waldst. & Kit.
   Distribution: Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean to Iran
   Late summer flowering, light yellow flowers
dalmatica (Herb.) Herb.
   Synonym of S. colchiciflora
etnensis (Raf.) Guss.
   Synonym of S. colchiciflora
exigua (Schousb.) Ker Gawl.
   Synonym of Narcissus cavanillesii
exscapa Tineo in G.Gussone
   Synonym of S. colchiciflora
fischeriana (Herb.) Roem.
   Synonym of S. vernalis
grandiflora Boiss. ex Baker
   Synonym of S. clusiana
greuteriana Kamari & R.Artelari
   Synonym of S. lutea
latifolia Boiss. & Hausskn. ex Baker
   Synonym of S. clusiana
lutea (L.) Ker Gawl. ex Spreng.
   Distribution: Baleares to Western Asia
   Autumn flowering, yellow flowers
macrantha (J.Gay) J.Gay ex Baker
   Synonym of S. clusiana
minoica Ravenna
   Distribution: Kriti
pulchella Boiss. & Blanche
   Distribution: Lebanon and Syria
   Late summer flowering, yellow flowers
schubertii Schenk
   Distribution: Western Turkey (Izmir)
sicula Tineo ex Guss.
   Synonym of S. lutea
sparffiordiana Dinsm.
   Synonym of S. clusiana
stipitata Boiss. & Hausskn.
   Synonym of S. clusiana
vernalis (Mill.) Gorer & J.H.Harvey
   Distribution: Southern Turkey to Central Asia
   Spring blooming, yellow flowers

Other Sources of Information

Bulbs, Revised Edition, John E. Bryan, Timber Press, Portland (2002).
RHS Manual of Bulbs, John Bryan and Mark Griffiths, Eds., Timber Press, Portland (1995).

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For information about this account, contact:
James E. Shields,
Last revised: 17 February 2013
© Copyright 2013 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.