Images: ©Jouko Lehmuskallio

Wild Garlic

Allium vineale

  • Name also: Crow Garlic
  • Family: Amaryllis Family – Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Allioideae
    (formerly Garlic Family – Alliaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. No rootstock, bulb egg-shaped.
  • Height: 25–100 cm (10–40 in.). Stem cylindrical, uppermost leaf often on upper half of stem. Onion fragrance.
  • Flower: Perianth campanulate, pink–greenish (occasionally white), 2.5–4.5 mm (0.1–0.18 in.) long, tepals 6. Stamens 6, same length as perianth or protruding. Gynoecium composed of 3 fused carpels, ovary trilocular, style solitary. Inflorescence a dense umbel, flower-stalks quite long (5–30 mm) (0.2–1.2 in.). Several–a few elliptic, yellowish brown bulbils present between flowers, sometimes flowers not present. Umbel enclosed in bud within one membranous bract.
  • Leaves: 2–4, stalkless, withering early, with sheath-like base. Blade linear, semi-cylindrical–slightly grooved, with entire margin, parallel-veined.
  • Fruit: Capsule, seed develops rarely.
  • Habitat: Hill slopes, Rocks, meadows, meadows, pastures, roadsides.
  • Flowering time: July–August.

Wild garlic didn’t spread to Finland under its own steam but rather sailors in bygone times have naturalized it as a culinary herb that they could use on voyages. More recently the species’ habitat follows the road east between Stockholm and St Petersburg because it doesn’t naturally spread far from wherever it grows. Wild garlic propagates itself mainly through its bulbils and lateral segments of the bulb: it doesn’t usually produce seeds and sometimes the flowers are completely lacking.

The surest places to find wild garlic are on the Åland Islands as only a handful of places are known on mainland Finland. In the most north-eastern of these areas, e.g. in Päijät-Häme, the stands are often close to known Iron Age dwelling sites, and on the mainland the plant could be a guide to finding ancient villages – on the Åland Islands it appears to be a younger established alien which isn’t especially centred around dwelling sites from the Middle Ages.

Wild garlic’s habitats can also be home to similar-looking field garlic (A. oleraceum), which grows in southern Ostrobothnia, southern Häme and as far east as Kymenlaakso. One of the easiest ways to differentiate between the species is by checking the subtending bracts: wild garlic has a single hooded bract, while field garlic has two long, narrow bracts that are different lengths.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family
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