Star of Bethlehem

It turns out this post is more about what the Star of Bethlehem flower is not.

Life is not predictable. 

The intense blue flower head of the Agapanthus – a favourite with bees.

Until this moment, I’ve always thought the plant, Agapanthus, was also known as the Star of Bethlehem. I planned to end my blogging year with symbolic reflections on this beautiful flower.  While researching some gardening sites for horticultural notes, I discovered my mistake. Imagine that – a whole life of taxonomic error!

It turns out the Star of Bethlehem is quite different from the Agapanthus although some previous classifications would have them related. 

Nevertheless, because I have some lovely specimens in full bloom in my neighbourhood  that I want to share with you, I will continue.

The name Agapanthus is derived from scientific Greek: αγάπη (agape – “love”), άνθος (anthos – “flower”) (ref).  Love Flower. And what’s not to love about this beautiful plant?

Best planted en-masse, come spring and summer, balls of small, intense blue or sometimes white flowers, wave on long stalks above green strappy leaves. 

The white flowers on this head beginning to emerge.

Although I’ve been under the misapprehension of this flower’s identity for most of my life, it doesn’t change my appreciation of the flower’s beauty. It doesn’t change the way I feel when I come upon drifts of blue and green waving in the breeze,  the way it lifts my spirits and makes me anticipate Christmas.

So what’s in a name? Taxonomies are human-imposed, arbitrary kinds of endeavours. And they don’t always agree. It seems we must label and categorise to ‘impose order’ over our world, to allocate meaning, to think of things in a prescribed way. 

Despite my identification error, I’ll always associate the Agapanthus with Christmas. And I’ll probably struggle not to refer to it as Star of Bethlehem. But the important lesson for me here is, things are what we call them. Things are embedded with symbolism. They become how we perceive them. For me, it’s a glass half full or half empty kind of thing, but even still, and always – a half glass. 

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare

Wishing all my fellow bloggers a peaceful, love-filled Christmas and festive season. I will see you all in the New Year.





36 responses to “Star of Bethlehem

  1. How lovely, Robyn! I, too, enjoy the blue agapanthus in my spring (up here) garden. The name is Greek, I believe, and of course the species is Greek. I would imagine that a white version blooming in your garden in New South Wales would, indeed, make you think of Star of Bethlehem. I have a patch of bulbs with tiny white narcissus called Star of Bethlehem, so I always thought that’s what it is. Well, as you and the Old Bard himself say, a rose by any other name is still a rose!

    Robyn, I’ve enjoyed getting to know you through your garden blogs and our conversations. I wish for you a holy and blessed Christmas season! Not long, now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You would know how plant taxonomies are always being reviewed. And then there are the common names given in different regions. No wonder I’m confused!
      I am grateful to have shared our love of grardens as well. I look forward to continuing in the New Year. In the meantime, I wish you and your family best wishes for the season and the coming year. .


  2. Oh dear! You praise the beauty of agapanthus (and they are indeed beautiful) just when I’ve been giving the ones in my yard evil looks and planning to dig some out. I’m afraid mine are spreading like crazy and crowding other plants too much.

    Have a Happy Xmas and New Year! I’m planning to take a break after this week’s post, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know they can be quite invasive in small spaces. My mother used to complain about the snails they harboured. But when in bloom you couldn’t seriously be unimpressed.
      Enjoy your break Denise. See you next year.


  3. Not sure how I missed this, but now in our Missouri deep freeze and with no joyful season ahead to celebrate until spring, the photographs comfort and inspire, especially the second one and its perfect accompanying word picture: “balls of small, intense blue or sometimes white flowers, wave on long stalks above green strappy leaves.” And the name too, both of them actually, scientific or not, accurate or in-

    Late wishes, Robyn, for a good year coming, and already here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Albert, you are freezing while we fry here. Some of the highest temperatures on record in parts of the country. Our heatwave goes on and on. I’m fortunate to be on the coast so not as bad.
      I’m so pleased you found something to like in my post about the pretty agapanthus. I hope you have a good year too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Robyn, I hope you are well. I periodically check to see if you’ve written new blog posts because I always learn something from your insightful writing and came upon this one. This right here: “It seems we must label and categorise to ‘impose order’ over our world, to allocate meaning, to think of things in a prescribed way.” I think, is one of the reasons we as humans have so much difficulty in recognizing our commonalities. If you don’t mind I’d like to add this quote to my collection. Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and an awesome New Year! ~Steph


  5. Pingback: Bold Blind Beauty | Real Beauty Transcends Barriers | Seeing Differently A Message Of Hope For 2020·

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