Allium – Onion
Onions are perennial herbs with an onion- or garlic-like odor (rarely inodorous), with naked flower stem arising from concentric-layered bulbs which are regrown annually. The bulbs are sometimes growing at the end of primary or secondary rhizomes. The plants have 1 to several leaves, which are usually linear, concave-convex, keeled lengthwise, flat or cylindrical, solid or hollow.
The flowers are arranged several to many in an open to dense umbel with bracts at the base, or almost in a head-shaped cluster. The individual flower stalks are not jointed. The flower parts are in 6 segments, also called tepals, essentially free from each other, erect or spreading. There are 6 stamens, with the filaments widened, more or less united at base and joined to the opposing tepals. The ovary is stalkless, 3-lobed and sometimes ridged, 3-celled, with usually 2 (rarely several) ovules in each cell. There is 1 style, the stigma appearing as a head-shaped cluster to evidently 3-parted. The fruit capsule is splitting open along the center of each compartment. The seeds are black, the amount 6 or fewer per capsule except in A. nigrum.
The genus consists of perhaps 500 species worldwide, widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, with about 70 species in N. America. Most parts of the plants are edible, and several species are cultivated, with the bulbs used as onions. The name comes from the Latin name for garlic.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of Genus Allium
A. cernuum – Nodding Onion
Stem slender, 10-50 cm tall, onion-smelling. Meadows, plains to montane. Flowers white to pink, bell-shaped, 6-7 mm wide, in nodding top clusters. Leaves basal, grass-like, 3-7 mm wide, flat or keeled. Edible plant.
A. brevistylum – Short-styled Onion
Stem 20-60 cm tall, onion-smelling. Moist meadows, plains to montane zone. Flowers pink, 10-13 mm long, on stalks, several in flat-topped cluster Leaves grass-like, 2 to several basal. Medicinal plant, all parts edible.
A. schoenoprasum – Wild Chives
Stem 20-60 cm tall, round, onion-smelling. Wet meadows, plains to montane. Flowers rose-pink to purplish, 8-14 mm long, in dense, ball-like heads. Leaves usually 2, hollow, 1-7 mm wide. Medicinal plant, all parts edible.
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