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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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Saturday - April 06, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Edible Plants, Poisonous Plants
Title: Identity of plant that looks like green onions
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have what looks like green onions growing in my lawn. They have small white flowers. Are they edible?

ANSWER:

There are several possibilities for this plant:

There are 3 varieties of Allium canadense (Meadow garlic) that occur in Travis County.

The other onion-like native plants occurring in Travis County are:

Allium drummondii (Drummond's onion)

All of the species of Allium occurring in Travis County are edible.  Here is an article, Wild Onion, from Texas Beyond History that gives the historical uses by native peoples in Texas.

Nothoscordum bivalve (Crow poison) looks very much like the Allium species.  However, you can tell them apart by smelling them.  The Allium species smell like onions or garlic—the crow poison smells musky.  Also, crow poison has cream-colored flowers and the Allium has white, pink or lavender colored flowers.  Is crow poison really a toxic plant?  We don't know for sure.  For more information about the toxicity of crow poison, please read the answer to that question from a couple of year's ago.  Given the uncertainty about whether or not it is toxic, I recommend that you NOT eat it. 

Zigadenus nuttallii (Death camas), however, is definitely considered poisonous.   DO NOT EAT ANY PART OF IT!  Here are links to a couple of toxic plant databases with more information:

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina says that Zigadenus spp. are "highly toxic, may be fatal if eaten!"

Plants of Texas Rangelands (Toxic Plants of Texas)

 

From the Image Gallery


Meadow garlic
Allium canadense

Canada onion
Allium canadense var. canadense

Fraser meadow garlic
Allium canadense var. fraseri

Meadow garlic
Allium canadense var. mobilense

Drummond's onion
Allium drummondii

Crow poison
Nothoscordum bivalve

Crow poison
Nothoscordum bivalve

Nuttall's death camas
Zigadenus nuttallii

Nuttall's death camas
Zigadenus nuttallii

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December 18, 2011 - It is a native ground cover plant that is edible and tastes like cucumbers. Found in the Edwards Plateau. What is the name?
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April 06, 2015 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants My name is Gabriel Bedoya; Im anthropologist, with large experience in research of traditional culinary, symbolic systems and native kitchens. Due to my experience in those s...
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June 06, 2007 - During the spring every year there are "Volunteer Onions" that grow in my lawn and garden. I live in Michigan, sw. question---are these onions? what are they--they smell like onions--- can they be e...
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