Onion - Wild

Scientific name: Allium species
Abundance: plentiful
What: bulbs and young stems/leaves
How: raw or cooked as seasoning
Where: open, sunny areas
When: all year, more common in cool weather.
Nutritional Values: Vitamin C plus small amounts of other vitamins, minerals, some carbohydrates.
Other Uses: juice acts as a weak insect repellent
Dangers: Rain lilies (Zephyranthes stellaris) look identical to wild onions and can be fatal. Crows Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve) plants also look just like wild onion and may cause upset stomaches. Only wild onion smells like onion. If it smells like onion it is safe to eat, if it just smells like grass it's Rain Lily or Crow's Poison.

Leaf Arrangement: The leaves of wild onions are typically arranged in a basal rosette emerging directly from the bulb.

Leaf Shape: The leaves are long, linear, and hollow or tubular, typically measuring about 8 to 12 inches in length and 0.1 to 0.3 inches in width. Field garlic (Allium vineale) leaves will be U-shaped along their long length.

Leaf Venation: The venation is parallel, as is common in monocots like onions.

Leaf Margin: The margins of the leaves are entire, meaning they are smooth and unbroken.

Leaf Color: The leaves are usually a vibrant green, sometimes with a bluish or glaucous tint.

Flower Structure: The flowers are small and borne in clusters on top of a leafless stalk. The cluster, or inflorescence, is often spherical or umbrella-shaped.

Flower Color: Flower colors can vary but are often pink, purple, or white.

Fruit: The fruit is a small capsule, although wild onions are more commonly identified by their bulbs and foliage.

Seed: The seeds are black and typically found inside the small capsule fruits.

Stem: The flowering stem, or scape, is round, smooth, and erect, rising directly from the bulb and holding the flower cluster aloft.

Hairs: There are no hairs on the leaves or stems.

Height: Wild onions typically grow to a height of 4 to 18 inches, including the flower stalk.

A thick stand of wild onions. These are 12"-14" tall.
Wild Onion Leaves IGFB22

A few wild onions...with some poison ivy.
Wild Onion Poison Ivy

A bunch of invasive Field Garlic (Allium vineale) onions close to flowering.

A single wild onion plant.

Wild onion flowers and seeds.

Close-up of Wild Onion flowers and seeds.

Another type of wild onions flowering.
Wild Onion Flowers IGFB22

Wild onion on the Texas-New Mexico border.
Wild Onion West Texas

Close-up of west Texas wild onion flower.
Wild Onion West Texas

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Wild onions form large beds of plants which drive out other plants. They are most common in cooler weather. The whole plant can be used same as chives, from the bulb to the tips of the green stems.

Larger wild onion stems can become too tough to eat unless they are boiled or stewed for a long time, but they tough ones can be easily determined when harvesting. If they are tough to cut/break then they'll be tough during eating unless cooked a long time.

The white flowers that they produce can also be eaten and give an interesting appearance to foods when the flowers are left raw. The flowers eventually turn into fairly hard, nut-like seeds that can also be eaten raw or cooked into dishes.

Wild onions can be dried for later use but be warned, if you dry them in a dehydrator your whole house will smell like onions for days.

There is a minimally toxic mimic of wild onion, which is called Crow's Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve). This plant look almost identical to a small wild onion but it lacks the onion/garlic smell when. Crushed Crow's Poison smell like grass whereas the wild onion smells like onion when crushed. The toxins in Crow's Poison are very weak and in a very low amount. You would have to eat a pound of the plant just to get a bad stomach. When dug up, Crow's Poison will have a cluster of attached bulbs underground.

Rain Lily MIMIC IGFB22

Rain Lily flowers (HIGHLY POISONOUS)
Rain Lily Toxic

Rain Lily Toxic

Crow's Poison

Close-up of Crow's Poison flower (SLIGHTLY TOXIC).

Crow's Poison gets its name from the practice of mixing the mashed-up bulbs of this plant with a handful of grain which was then left out for crows to eat. The crows would get sick, some would die, and the other crows would realize they need to leave the grain of this farm alone.

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