Allium canadense (Wild Garlic)
|Also known as:||Meadow Garlic|
|Habitat:||sun; open prairie, open woods, riparian meadows, rocky outcrops|
|Bloom season:||June - July|
|Plant height:||1 to 2 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Rounded flower cluster at the tip of a sturdy, erect stem, encased by 2 or 3 broad, oval bracts that dry to a papery light brown. The cluster is 1 to 2 inches across, typically a mix of small, stalkless bulblets and stalked flowers, though flowers may be absent altogether. The bulblets are about ½ inch long, greenish to deep maroon, round and broadest at the base and can be short tapered to a conical tip, or the outer sheath can elongate into a round, leaf-like blade over an inch long.
Occasionally secondary clusters of small bulblets form at the tip of these extensions. Flowers, when present, are white to pink (typically pale pink), ¼ to ½ inch across, on a stalk ½ to 1 inch long, with 6 tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals all similar) and 6 white to pink stamens surrounding a pale yellowish-green center.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are grass-like, as long as or shorter than the flowering stem, slender and flat, 1/10 to 2/10 inch wide and up to 12 inches long, nearly basal but sheathed around the lower 1/3 of the stem. Stems are round and unbranched. Leaves and stems are hairless and have a strong onion scent, especially when crushed. Underground bulbs are covered in a fibrous mesh.
Minnesota populations rarely produce fruit. When present, fruits are small, three valved capsules about 1/8 inch across with a small shiny black seed in each valve.
Wild garlic can produce massive, showy displays around the moist edges of ephemeral pools of Minnesota's southwestern granite outcrops. But in much of its range, as along the banks of the Mississippi and the damp meadows of the Minnesota River Valley, it is often scarce of flower and its slender, grass-like form easily gets it lost amongst the grasses and sedges. It has revealed itself to me more than once by its fragrant onion odor after I've trampled on it. It has persisted quite well amongst my wet meadow plantings in the backyard garden and, while not of much substance, the crisp cluster of fresh bulblets can be a tasty treat when the mood strikes. There are 6 recognized varieties in North America, distinguished by a range of characteristics from flower color, fragrance, and size of the flower stalks, with var. canadense, which produces more bulblets than flowers, found in Minnesota. It is easy to distinguish from other Allium species by these bulblets and the mesh-covered underground bulbs.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Wild Garlic plants
- Wild Garlic rock outcrop habitat
- garden-grown Wild Garlic with greenish bulblets
- emerging flower bud
- more flowers
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Blue Mounds State Park, Rock County, Black Dog Preserve NWR, Dakota County, the Mississippi River at Clearwater, Wright County, and a private garden in Ramsey County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?