Allium ursinum
Sat, 12 Jun 2004 00:50:12 PDT
Allium ursinum, or Ramsons, is a  very common plant in the woods round here,
in some places making a completely white carpet, beautiful were it not for
the overpowering smell of garlic. This is so strong that one gets wafts of
it while driving along. The dominance I atribute to a) its vigour and
competitiveness with big broad leaves, and b) as with bluebells, it can grow
in what later becomes very dense shade, but completes its lifecycle before
the leaves develop.

The name is curious. I looked it up in Geoffrey Grigson's invaluable 'The
Englishman's Flora', first published 1955, which gives all known English
vernacular names for most wild flowers, with commentary on these and the
plant. It is not a flora in the normal sense, but a superb addition to drier
tomes. For Ramsons he gives an assortment of names connected with stink, and
garlic/leeks/onions etc, then we get:

"RAMPS (rams in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, German) in [the counties/areas]
of Lancashire, Cumbria, Lake District, Northumberland, Scotland, Ireland"
[all Norsemen-plagued & settled] with the variants of RAMSDEN, RAMSEY, RAM'S
HORNS, RAMSON(S), ROMMY, ROMS, ROSEMS in various places.

He goes on to say: "Turner (1548) gave the English names as Ramsey,
Bucrammes (i.e. buck rammes), and Rammes. The Old English name was hramsa.
Hramsan, giving Ramson, was the plural, so that Ransoms is a double plural.
there are a good many hramsa place-names, e.g. Ramsbottom in Lancashire
[meaning] 'Ramson valley', Ramsey in Essex and Huntingdonshire, meaning
Ramson island."

"Gerard [Herbal, 1597] wrote that in the low country fish sauce was made
from the leaves, which 'maye very well be eaten in April and Maie with
butter, [by] such as are of a strong constitution, and labouring men'."

John Grimshaw

Dr John M. Grimshaw
Garden Manager, Colesbourne Gardens

Sycamore Cottage
Nr Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL53 9NP


----- Original Message ----- 
From: <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2004 4:06 AM
Subject: Re: [pbs] UK bulbs on the wiki

> Jim McKenney wrote:
> >Another question is for Mark McDonough
> >and concerns Allium ursinum. {snip}
> >is this: as Allium go, are A. ursinum and
> >A. tricoccum closely related?
> Hi Jim, and PBS crew,
> I sort of answered this in part, in my last message, posted before seeing
> your message because I receive my PBS posts in daily digest mode.  How
close the
> two species are related, I don't know for sure, but they do indeed
> each other.  It is also true, that Allium tricoccum or "ramps", stands
> alone among the North American allium scene (unrelated to any other N.
> allium species), and possibly has relic affinity with Asian flora; the
> USA plant flora connection to Asian flora a known phenomenon.  There is a
> subspecies burdickii, at one point elevated to species standing (which was
> ridiculous) and later reduced back to subspecies standing.  This variant
has red
> petioles, reddish tinged leaves (traits found among the typical tricoccum
> well), and other very minor characteristics that vary only slightly from
> tricoccum.
> Believe it or not, I have never grown Allium ursinum, out of the hundreds
> Allium species and cultivars I have grown.  I do have but one single bulb
> Allium tricoccum, which has persisted for some 20 years or more, and
> most years (although sometimes skips a year), but never increases... not
> into 2 bulbs!  And I've never seen a seedling.  I think it's too dry in my
> for it to prosper.  Different than A. ursinum, Allium tricoccum often
> produces spring leaves that disappear totally when it blooms (that's how
it behaves
> in my garden), which is quite a bit different than the behavior of ursinum
> where both flowers and leaves are present simultaneously, as far as I
> Mark McDonough Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States
> "New England" USDA Zone 5
> ==============================================
> >> web site under construction - <<
> alliums, bulbs, penstemons, hardy hibiscus, western
> american alpines, iris, plants of all types!
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