Herbs & Plants

Allium cernuum


Botanical Name : Allium cernuum
Family : Alliaceae
Genus : Allium
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Species: A. cernuum

Common Names:  Nodding Onion, New Mexican nodding onion or  lady’s leek.

Habitat :N. America – Canada to Mexico. Ledges, gravels, rocky or wooded slopes and crests ascending to high altitudes . Widely distributed on moist soils in mountainous and cool regions to 3500 metres .Cultivated Beds;

It is a perennial plant. Bulb growing to 0.45m by 0.25m.
It  is not frost tender. It is in leaf from February to December, in flower from June to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, insects.

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Plants typically grow 12-18” (less frequently to 24”) tall. Features clumps of flat, narrow, grass-like leaves (to 12” tall) and tiny bell-shaped, pink to lilac pink (occasionally white) flowers which appear in loose, nodding clusters (umbels) atop erect, leafless scapes rising slightly above the foliage. Wild nodding onion is distinguished from most other native alliums by the fact that its scapes crook sharply downward at the top just below the flower so that the flower umbel nods (hence the common name). Blooms in summer. All parts of this plant have an oniony smell when cut or bruised. Although the bulbs and leaves of this plant were once used in cooking (stews) or eaten raw, nodding onion is not generally considered to be of culinary value today.

It has an unsheathed slender conic bulb which gradually tapers directly into several keeled grass-like leaves (2–4 mm wide). Each mature bulb bears a single flowering stem, which terminates in a downward nodding umbel of white or rose flowers. Nodding onion blooms in July or August. The flowers mature into spherical crested fruits which later split open to reveal the dark shiny seeds. This plant does not have bulblets in the inflorescence. This plant grows in dry woods, rock outcroppings, and prairies. It is native to North America from New York to British Columbia south to Virginia and Kentucky and south in the mountains. The bulb is edible and has a strong onion flavor.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

Cultivation :
An easily grown plant, it prefers a sunny position in a light well-drained soil. Succeeds in clay soils. Established plants are fairly drought tolerant. Plants succeed in maritime gardens. A very ornamental plant, it makes a very decorative edging to flower beds. This species is self-sowing quite freely in our Cornwall garden. The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply. Most members of this genus are intolerant of competition from other growing plants, though this species has tolerated considerable neglect in our Cornwall garden. The cultivar ‘Major’ is a more vigorous form with larger flower clusters. Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other. A widespread and very variable species. It is closely allied to A. stellatum. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Seed – sow spring in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle – if you want to produce clumps more quickly then put three plants in each pot. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out into their permanent positions in spring once they are growing vigorously and are large enough. Division in spring. Very easy, the plants divide successfully at any time in the growing season and the divisions can be planted straight out into their permanent positions if required.

This is a more vigorous form with larger flower clusters

Edible Uses:-
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves; Root.

Bulb – raw or cooked. Strongly flavoured, it is mainly used as a flavouring. The bulb is about 50mm tall and 15mm wide. Leaves – raw or cooked. A delicious, strong-onion flavour, they are very nice in salads. The leaves are available from spring until the autumn and are one of the most favourite onions we are growing on our Cornish trial grounds. Flowers – raw or cooked. A delicious strong onion flavour, somewhat stronger than the leaves especially if the seeds are starting to set. They make a very decorative and tasty addition to the salad bowl.

Medicinal Actions &  Uses
Lithontripic; Poultice.

The whole plant has mild medicinal activity similar to the action of garlic (Allium sativum). It is used specifically as a poultice on the chest for the treatment of respiratory ailments and the juice has been used in the treatment of kidney stones. The juice of the plant is used in treating colds, croup, sore throats etc. A poultice of the plant is applied externally to various infections such as sore throats, sores, swellings, chest and pleurisy pains.

Other Uses:-

The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles. The juice can be applied to exposed skin in order to repel biting insects.


This is a more vigorous form with larger flower clusters.

Known Hazards: Although no individual reports regarding this species have been seen, there have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.



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