Wild onion and garlic (Allium species)

Wild Onion stalks with white flowersAllium cernuum and Allium canadense are examples of the many species of wild onions and garlics, all easily recognized by their distinctive onion-like or garlic-like odor.  Many have leaves located at the base that wither away as the flowers begin growing but the main leaves (typically 1-12 leaves) are waxy textured, grass-like, straight or slightly coiled (some are tube-like), linear with grooved or flat leaf blades.

Wild Onion can be easily spotted in the wild by their showy flowersThe white, greenish white or reddish pink colored, star-shaped flowers form a dome-shaped umbel (many flowers on stems that are shaped like umbrella ribs) at the top of a leafless stalk.  The outer flowers blooms first and the inner flowers bloom later.  Bulbs vary is size and are typically brown or gray in color, with a smooth texture covering a fibrous outer layer (inner layers of the bulbs have stringy membranes).  The seeds are round and black, sometimes brown or light brown.

Where to Find: Wild Onion growing in the wildWild onions and garlics are found in open, sunny areas throughout the world in temperate regions.  They are wide-spread in North America.  Cultivated varieties are found anywhere in the world and are especially popular with gardeners.  Wild onions prefer dry, well drained soils but some will grow in more organic soils.  Most species prefer full sun but some will grow in shade (e.g. forests) or even in stagnant water or near slow flowing rivers.

Edible Parts: The edible portion of the Wild Onion plantThe bulbs and young leaves are edible raw or cooked. Use in soup or to flavor meat.

Note: There are several plants with onion-like bulbs that are extremely poisonous. Be certain that the plant you are using is a true onion or garlic. Do not eat bulbs with no onion smell.

Ingesting excessive quantities can cause stomach aches especially in small children.

Other Uses: Eating large quantities of onions will give your body an odor that will help to repel insects. Garlic juice works as an antibiotic on wounds.

Wild onion can be harder to spot if no flowers have presented themselves

Wild Onion leaves are grass-like, flat, with some curled, tubular sections

Flowering Wild Onion plant

Close up of Wild Onion flowers

Close up of Wild Onion flowers

Purplish and white Wild Onion flowers

Wild Onion flowers can be yellow too

Showy, white Wild Onion flowers

Wild Onion seeds