Gagea lutea

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaLiliaceaeGageaGagea lutea


A bulbous perennial herb of moist, base-rich, shady habitats including woods, hedgerows, limestone pavements, pastures, riverbanks and stream banks; sometimes washed down on alluvium in riverine woodland subject to seasonal flooding. Mainly lowland, but to 340 m near Ribblehead (Mid-W. Yorks.).



World Distribution

European Temperate element, with a continental distribution in W. Europe; also in C. and E. Asia.

© K.J. Walker, BSBI

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 4

Moisture (Ellenberg): 6

Reaction (Ellenberg): 7

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 7

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 3

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 15.1

Annual Precipitation (mm): 861

Height (cm): 25

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary

Bulbous geophyte



Clonality - primary

Tuberous or bulbous, slowing cloning by offsets

Clonality - secondary

Detaching ramets at or below ground

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 212

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.16

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Gagea lutea (L.) Ker Gawler

Yellow star-of-Bethlehem

Status: not scarce


This is a small bulbous perennial, flowering during March and April. It occurs very locally in small, moist, base-rich woodlands, woodland borders, wooded limestone pavements, pastures and shady river banks. In this last situation it is often found in areas of silt deposition in association with Chrysosplenium alternifolium. It is virtually confined to the lowlands, but is recorded from 320 metres near Llanarmon-yr-Ial and 340 metres near Ribblehead.

Although it can occur as scattered individuals, colonies are often quite dense but may be of limited extent, just a few square metres in area. Some of these appear to persist for many years in a vegetative state, others are very free-flowering, and the density of the tree canopy is probably a controlling factor.

Some populations have been lost, mainly through felling of their woodland habitat, but adverse agricultural practices and river bank reinforcements also take their toll. Losses due to erosion are probably less important as displaced plants may re-establish themselves downstream.

The plant is widely distributed throughout western and central Europe, extending eastwards into Russia with outlying populations in northern Scandinavia. It also occurs in eastern Asia and the western Himalayas, Japan and the Kamchatka peninsula, Russia. 

Systematic searching for this easily overlooked species has resulted in the discovery of many new colonies in recent years. Non-flowering plants can he easily confused with Hyacinthoides non-scripta, especially when they are immature.



M. J. Y Foley

Atlas text references

Atlas (315a)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.