- Family: Amaryllis Family – Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Allioideae
(formerly Garlic Family – Alliaceae)
- Growing form: Perennial herb. Lacking rootstock, bulb egg-shaped.
- Height: 25–75 cm (10–30 in.). Stem cylindrical, upper half leafless. Onion-like fragrance.
- Flower: Perianth campanulate, light violet–pink–greenish brown, approx. 7 mm (0.28 in.) long; tepals 6. Stamens 6, remaining inside perianth. Pistil of 3 fused carpels. Inflorescence lax, max. 10-flowered umbel, flower-stalks long (1.5–5 cm (0.6–2 in.)) and different lengths, flowers often pendent. Dark, tapered bulbils often mixed with flowers, inflorescence occasionally completely flowerless and packed with bulbils. 2 long-lasting, membranous bracts under inflorescence, different lengths, one long, mitre-like, surround it in budding phase.
- Leaves: Leaves 2–4, stalkless, withering early, bases sheath-like. Blade linear–almost thread-like, top grooved, tip flat, with entire margins, parallel-veined.
- Fruit: Capsule, seeds rarely develop.
- Habitat: Rocky and hillside meadows, river banks, roadsides, coppices.
- Flowering time: July–August.
Field garlic, like most of its relatives that grow in Finland, has been brought to the country by sailors. It apparently then spread with the Vikings when they stopped off on the south coast on their way east. It is relatively undemanding, preferring hillside meadows, broad-leaved forests and rocky outcrops around villages, and has been an excellent scurvy herb. In the days of sailing boats, provisions were usually bad quality and especially on long distances sailors would be affected by deficiencies. Scurvy, which is a result of a lack of vitamin C, was highly feared until it was understood that it was linked to an absence of fresh fruit and vegetables. Although nothing was known about vitamins as such, vegetables greatly helped and favoured species were planted at harbours along the routes.
Field garlic probably originates from when a Garlic family species growing in southern and eastern Europe doubled its chromosomes. It is only rarely able to produce seeds, tending to propagate itself asexually through its bulbils and side-bulbs, which have runners. These make it easy for field garlic to expand and move from one place to another. The species grows along the coast of the Gulf of Finland beside old shipping routes; inland it follows old trade routes up the Kokemäenjoki and Eurajoki Rivers, old busy roots of the fur trade.