Sunday, September 05, 2010

Late summer's bloomin' onion

Scattered throughout the Ozarks on dry, rocky glades these days are the pale purple blooms of wild onion (Allium stellatum). Members of the lily family, they are one of nine species of wild onions in Missouri. Like the rest of the family, A. stellatum grows from a bulb. On average, the flowering stalk reaches 1 ft. tall.

A similar summer blooming fall onion is often mistaken for the more common A. stellatum. A. cernuum tends to bloom a little earlier, and while both species can have arching or "hooked" aerial stems, the perianth of A. cernuum is bell-shaped, while that of A. stellatum is "broadly spreading."

The bulb of this plant is edible, and the leaves emit a strong onion fragrance. The thin leaves die back when the flowering stalk appears. Wild onion has only recently begun blooming, along with some of the other glade goldenrods. Several species of Liatris are still in bloom alongside the wild onions and the fading Rudbeckia missouriensis, providing nectar to all those monarchs that are on the scene these days. The tall and brilliant yellow flowers of Solidago speciosa can be seen on glades, too, one of the earlier blooming goldenrods that begin to usher in the flowering periods of those wonderful and ubiquitous fall blooming composites.

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