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 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 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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