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Sand Leek

Allium scorodoprasum

  • Name also: Rocambole
  • Family: Amaryllis Family – Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Allioideae
    (formerly Garlic Family – Alliaceae)
  • Growing form: Perennial herb. Lacking rootstock, bulb egg-shaped.
  • Height: 30–90 cm (12–36 in.). Stem cylindrical, upper half leafless. Onion-like fragrance.
  • Flower: Perianth campanulate, purple, 4–7 mm (0.16–0.28 in.) long; tepals 6. Stamens 6, remaining inside perianth. Pistil of 3 fused carpels. Inflorescence a dense umbel, sparsely flowered, flower-stalks quite long (5–20 mm (0.2–0.8 in.)) and different lengths. Many dark purple bulbils mixed with flowers. 1(–2) broad, early-withering membranous bracts under inflorescence surround it in budding phase.
  • Leaves: Leaves 2–5, stalkless, bases sheath-like. Blade linear, quite broad, flat, with entire margins, parallel-veined, edges and central vein rough.
  • Fruit: Capsule, seeds rarely develop.
  • Habitat: Broad-leaved forests, forest margins, shore and hillside meadows, hedgerows. Also an old kitchen herb, sometimes in old yards.
  • Flowering time: June–July.

Many of the species that belong to the large Garlic family are familiar from the kitchen, e.g. onion (A. cepa), garlic (A. sativum), Welsh onion (A. fistulosum) and leek (A. porrum). Sand leek is known at least within the French cultural sphere as rocambole, and it has a long history of being used like garlic. It is mentioned in an old Finnish manuscript as an excellent seasoning for sauces and game. It was later forgotten, even though it apparently arrived in Finland too as a cultivated plant for the kitchen and also perhaps to help sailors stave off scurvy. Sand leek went wild in Finland and can nowadays be found in waterside broad-leaved forests. Its habitat is a good reflection of ancient trade routes: on one hand it grows along the eastern road used by sailors, on the Åland Islands and along the south-west coast of the mainland, and on the other hand on the north-east of the archipelago along the old fur-trading road. Places that it has been found that were unsuitable for trade are apparently all left over from old herb gardens.

Sand leek’s inflorescence includes flowers that are long-stalked and also stalkless bulbils. The species spreads vegetatively through these bulbils, which start a new plant when they break off and fall to the ground. Many other members of the Garlic family in Finland propagate themselves in the same manner. Sand leek can however be distinguished from these by its quite broad, linear leaves.

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

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