Blue or Purple Flowers
Lily Family (Liliaceae)
Habitat: Montane to Subalpine Moist Areas
Height: Up to 50 cm
Description: The nodding onion is easily identified by its grass-like leaves and strong onion scent. The blue to purple flower-head occurs as a nodding cluster of small, bell-like flowers. They vary in colour from blue to pink. Each flower occurs at the end of a short stalk, all originating from the same location. The anthers and the pistil protrude beyond the lip of the bell-like corolla.
Flower: The flowers occur as a nodding umbel composed of numerous individual white to pink flowers, each at the end of a 1-3 cm long stalk. Each saucer-shaped flower had 6 petals (tepals) and 6 stamens that emerged beyond the corolla. The stem is hollow and, along with the rest of the plant, gives off a strong onion smell.
Leaf: The leaves are narrow and grasslike and up to 20 cm long and 3 mm wide. They occur as a basal clump that sprouts from the bulb.
Fruit/Seed: The seeds are contained within a three-lobed capsule. There are two crests on each of the lobes. The entire capsule is around 0.4 cm long.
Similar Species: The flower of the prairie onion (A. textile) lacks a nodding head, and the flowers are usually white. There are often two stem leaves as well, where the nodding onion lacks stem leaves. In the extreme southern portion of the Canadian Rockies, you may encounter Geyer's onion (A. geyeri). This pink flowered onion also has an erect flower head and at least three leaves at the base of each stalk.
Range: Nodding onion ranges from southern British Columbia, throughout the Canadian Rockies, and east all the way to Ontario. It's southern range extends to New York, Arizona and Texas.
The bulb of this plant is edible, but like many of our wild plants, it must be killed to be eaten. Try to avoid collecting plants like the nodding onion as they are not exceedingly common, and not nearly as tasty as the store bought variety anyway.
Historically, many Native Canadian groups used nodding onion as a food source and seasoning. They were often singed before eating to help remove the strong flavour.
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