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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - June 25, 2006

From: Eudora, KS
Region: Midwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Wild onions and garlic in Genus Allium
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

My husband and I found a strange bulb like plant that when broken open it smells and tastes like strong onion or garlic. The heads are at the top of the plant though not at the root base like most wild onions. It looks like the plant already flowered and left behind a white head. When the head is broken open it has the strong smell and is very tightly compacted like seeds but has tiny small balls that taste like strong wild onions. Can you please identify? THANKS for your help !

ANSWER:

Onions and garlic both belong to the Genus Allium and this genus has many members, both native and introduced. It can be difficult to tell them apart and, in fact, their common names are often interchangeable. One possibility is Allium vineale, introduced wild garlic. Another possibility is Allium canadense, native wild onion. This same A. canadense is called both wild onion and wild garlic. They can reproduce by these aerial bulblets or bulbils. You can see many more native species of Allium in the Native Plants Database.
 

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