Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
4 ratings

Friday - July 07, 2006

From: Phoenixville, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Edibility of native and non-native wild onions
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'd like to know if the seeds of the wild onions found in southeastern Pennsylvania (possibly called Allium ascalonicum) are edible at all- these are the seeds that grow on top of the stalk, after a wonderful purple flower has dropped off in July. thanks!

ANSWER:

There are several species of wild onions that grow in Pennsylvania—some native, some not native. You may, perhaps, have seen Allium ascalonicum, a non-native, introduced species. However, it is possible that the one you encountered is a widespread, common native Allium canadense. You can eat all of the parts—the bulbs, the leaves and the bulblets (the small bulbs that form on the flowers on top of the plant) of all of the species of Allium (the onions, garlics, shallots, leeks, and chives). Be sure that when picking any part of the plant that you detect a distinct onion/garlic smell. There are other plants in the Family Liliaceae (Lily Family) that look like wild onions or garlic, but whose bulbs are poisonous. Those in the Genus Allium will have the typical onion/garlic smell and will be safe to eat. You should be aware, however, members of the Allium spp. can cause gastric distress if eaten in large quantities. Euell Gibbons in Stalking the Wild Asparagus has a chapter dedicated to finding and using "The Wild Onion Family." The book is probably available at your local library.
 

More Non-Natives Questions

Non-native Ornithogalum longibracteatum (Pregnant Onion)
June 27, 2007 - Dear Sir, I have a plant called a Pregnant Onion. It looks like an onion and it has babies develop on its body and the surface peals off like an onion. It's leaves grow to about a yard long and th...
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of non-native, invasive Wedelia trilobata
March 19, 2007 - Could you tell me if Wedelia trilobata is toxic to animals? It grows so voraciously where I am that I am wanting to use the whole plant to feed to my large tortoises (who are also voracious for edibl...
view the full question and answer

Non-native genista racemosa from Leander TX
March 28, 2012 - Hello, Mr. Smarty Plants. I fear I've made a horrible purchase at a local plant place. Bought a "broom" plant--it's not listed in your database. Latin name: genista racemosa, according to tag. ...
view the full question and answer

Type of clumping bamboo for outdoor planters from Plano TX
March 25, 2014 - What type of clumping bamboo can be grown outdoors in planters in Dallas,TX?
view the full question and answer

Identity of a plant at UGA Trial Gardens 15 years ago
August 14, 2012 - Looking to identify a plant that was in UGA trial gardens about 15 years ago, large plant with purple flowers, fuzzy leaves like a lambs ear. Thought it started with a Thiobana or something like that
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.