Allium

The genus Allium contains approximately 850 species, and it is the "type" for the family Alliaceae, although once considered part of Liliaceae and Amaryllidaceae. The genus is perhaps best known from the handful of species that make up the edible food crops we're all familiar with, e.g. onions (Allium cepa), leeks (Allium ampeloprasum), garlic (Allium sativum), scallion (Allium fistulosum relative), and chives (Allium schoenoprasum); but many more species are known for their ornamental value and are thus dubbed the "ornamental onions". Alliums are hardy perennials, having true bulbs, or less-developed vestigial bulbs attached to rhizomes, the latter known as rhizomatous onions. Many species require a winter dormancy and chill whereas other species such as those occurring in a mediterranean climate require a dry summer dormancy. The center of Allium diversity is in the Mediterranean/Middle East region, eastern Asia and North America. In North America, the center of diversity lies in western Texas and the California Floristic Province. There are about a hundred species and varieties that occur in North America.

Allium was the subject of the Pacific Bulb Society's topic of the week in March 2003. Click on Introduction to read Mark McDonough's introduction and on Follow-ups from Mark to read some of his other contributions that week. One useful book for this genus is Davies, 1992 described in References.

Allium "Garden View" 1 - In July the allium garden is at its peak with numerous flowering species. In this view there's a drift of rosy-purple Allium cernuum in the background, an upright clump of A. plummerae with white flowers just starting to open, and in the foreground on the left, various forms of Allium flavum ssp. tauricum in pink and tan colors, with the drooping buds of Allium stellatum on the right (which are weeks away from bloom in late August). Allium "Garden View 2" - In mid July, among the searing heat in the upper 90's Fahrenheit (36 Celsius), the allium garden is a simmering landscape of pastel flower sprays and color bobs wavering in the hot breeze. The next photo shows bulb profiles - a view of four uprooted allium species with the soil washed off. From left to right the species are: A. przewalskianum (an Asian species; notice the orange bulb coats), Allium heldreichii (a hardy species from Greece), Allium amplectens (pink form of this western American onion), and Allium schoenoprasum 'Snowcap' on the right, a dwarf white-flowered chive. Photos by Mark McDonough. The final photo by David Pilling shows the characteristic flower of Alliums, with six stamens, six petals and a single style in the middle of a three celled ovary.

Alliums in the garden, Mark McDonoughAlliums in the summer garden, Mark McDonoughAllium profiles, Mark McDonoughAllium cristophii, David Pilling

Representatives of some of the species are shown below.

Allium falcifolium, Nhu NguyenAllium karataviense 'Ivory Queen', Mark McDonoughAllium sphaerocephalon, Nhu NguyenAllium scorzonerifolium, Jane McGaryAllium cratericola, Nhu NguyenAllium sharsmithiae, Nhu Nguyen

Information on named species can be found on the wiki pages below or by clicking on the name of the species in the table.


Allium flavum Relatives - Allium hybrids - American alliums A-B - American alliums C - American alliums D-F - American alliums G-H - American alliums I-M - American alliums N-R - American alliums S-Z - Big Ball alliums - Blue alliums - chives - Domed alliums - Drumstick alliums - Miscellaneous alliums A-E - Miscellaneous alliums F-M - Miscellaneous alliums N-R - Miscellaneous alliums S-Z - Rhizomatous alliums


Allium cultivars and species
Allium abramsii Allium acuminatum Allium albidum Allium alexeianum
Allium altyncolicum Allium amethystinum Allium amplectens Allium ascalonicum
Allium atropurpureum Allium atroviolaceum Allium barsczeweskii Allium basalticum
Allium beesianum Allium bolanderi Allium bulgaricum Allium caeruleum
Allium caesium Allium callimischon Allium campanulatum Allium canadense
Allium cardiostemon Allium carinatum Allium carolinianum Allium cernuum
Allium chamaemoly Allium commutatum Allium convallarioides Allium cratericola
Allium crenulatum Allium crispum Allium cristophii Allium cyaneum
Allium cyathophorum Allium darwasicum Allium decipiens Allium diabolense
Allium dichlamydeum Allium douglasii Allium eulae Allium falcifolium
Allium fimbriatum Allium flavum Allium 'Gladiator' Allium glandulosum
Allium 'Globemaster' Allium 'Globus' Allium gooddingii Allium griffithianum
Allium guttatum Allium haematochiton Allium heldreichii Allium hickmanii
Allium hollandicum Allium hookeri Allium howellii Allium hyalinum
Allium hymenorrhizum Allium incensiodorum Allium insubricum Allium jacquemontii
Allium jepsonii Allium jesdianum Allium karataviense Allium kharputense
Allium komarowii Allium kurssanovii Allium lacunosum Allium lemmonii
Allium lineare Allium litvinovii Allium 'Lucy Ball' Allium macranthum
Allium mannii Allium maximowiczii Allium meliophilum Allium membranaceum
Allium 'Millenium' Allium moschatum Allium 'Mount Everest' Allium neapolitanum
Allium nevskianum Allium nigrum Allium nutans Allium obliquum
Allium obtusum Allium oreophilum Allium paniculatum Allium paradoxum
Allium parryi Allium peninsulare Allium perdulce Allium platycaule
Allium plummerae Allium praecox Allium przewalskianum Allium pskemense
Allium 'Purple Sensation' Allium pyrenaicum Allium ramosum Allium robustum
Allium roseum Allium rotundum Allium rubens Allium sanbornii
Allium sativum Allium schoenoprasum Allium schubertii Allium schmitzii
Allium scorodoprasum Allium scorzonerifolium Allium senescens Allium serra
Allium sharsmithiae Allium shevockii Allium sibthorpianum Allium siculum
Allium sieheanum Allium sphaerocephalon Allium subhirsutum Allium subvillosum
Allium texanum Allium thunbergii Allium togasii Allium tolmiei
Allium trachyscordum Allium tripedale Allium triquetrum Allium tuberosum
Allium tuvinicum Allium unifolium Allium ursinum Allium victorialis
Allium wallichii Allium winklerianum Allium woronowii Allium zebdanense

For more information on the huge and varied genus Allium, please visit Mark McDonough's website


Allium flavum Relatives - Allium hybrids - American alliums A-B - American alliums C - American alliums D-F - American alliums G-H - American alliums I-M - American alliums N-R - American alliums S-Z - Big Ball alliums - Blue alliums - chives - Domed alliums - Drumstick alliums - Miscellaneous alliums A-E - Miscellaneous alliums F-M - Miscellaneous alliums N-R - Miscellaneous alliums S-Z - Rhizomatous alliums


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