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Allium schoenoprasum

  • Name also: Wild Chives
  • Family: Amaryllis Family – Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Allioideae
    (formerly Garlic Family – Alliaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Rootstock short, bulb narrowly conical, white.
  • Height: 10–30 cm (4–12 in.) (var. sibiricum up to 60 cm (25 in.)). Stem cylindrical, leafless apart from basal part. Onion-like fragrance.
  • Flower: Perianth campanulate, purple–light purplish red (occasionally white), 7–10(–15) mm (0.28–0.4(–0.6 in.)) long; tepals 6. Stamens 6. Pistil of 3 fused carpels. Inflorescence a dense, spherical umbel, flower-stalks short (0.5–1 cm (0.2–0.4 in.)), lacking bulbils. 2–3 membranous, elliptical bracts under inflorescence surround it in budding phase.
  • Leaves: Leaves usually only 1–2, stalkless, base sheath-like. Blade linear, cylindrical, hollow, sometimes flat or grooved surface, parallel-veined, with entire margins.
  • Fruit: Quite round, 3-edged, approx. 3 mm (0.12 in.) long capsule.
  • Habitat: Rocks, bird rocks, stony seashore and hillside meadows. Damp meadows and broad-leaved forests in the north. Also a kitchen herb, wild in yards, rockeries, gardens, roadsides, rubbish tips.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Chives belong to the huge genus Allium and are a native coastal plant in Finland. This well-known kitchen herb is used fresh or dried with fish and vegetables and in soups, casseroles, in sandwiches, and as flavouring and decoration in salads. It has been used medicinally to treat stomach troubles, laboured breathing, coughs, gout and scurvy. Chives are not just a fabulous culinary herb, they also attract butterflies.

Chives that grow in Finland are at least partly native: at least on the south coast they grow sufficiently abundantly that they are not harmed by picking. Chives also grow in places inland on rocks, stony shores and rocky precipices. These stands are the last reminders of a time when the shoreline was considerably further inland than it is now – most stands have disappeared without a trace over thousands of years.

Three subspecies or variations of chives grow in Finland, of which ssp. schoenoprasum var. schoenoprasum is the most common. The very rare var. jurmoënse grows at least on the island of Jurmo in Korppoo. A handsome, large and rare Arctic subspecies, ssp. sibiricum (sometimes classed as a separate species) grows on rich, damp meadows in northern Lapland. Very rare mouse garlic (A. angulosum) looks quite like chives, but it can be differentiated by its bristly stem and clearly stalked flowers.

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

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