Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wildflower Wednesday: Wild onion

It's Wildflower Wednesday once again, the meme hosted each month by Gail of clay and limestone. It's a chance to feature and recognize the wonderful native plants that live in our gardens and habitats, plants that are happily utilized by the wildlife that also share our living spaces.

Today, I'm featuring a plant that managed by some mysterious means to reseed itself into my yard a few years ago. I happened to notice it and liked the look of it, so I dug it and potted it up to see what would happen. The next year it came back and bloomed again and I decided to plant it in the corner of one of my beds in the garden. It has lived there happily ever since and it continues to multiply, getting bigger and providing more blooms every spring.

Wild onion, or Allium canadense to give it its proper name, is a member of the lily family. It has a long bloom cycle that can last from March until May. It is a low, upright clumped plant that grows from a small bulb and has no stem. It may grow from 8" to 24" high. Mine is on the lower end of that range. The flower color can vary from a very pale to a dark pink. Again, mine are of the darker variety. In Nature, it grows in various types of soils including prairies, brushlands, rocky slopes, stream banks and edges, and openings in woodlands. It is native in much of the eastern half of the country. Wild onions were traditionally used by Native Americans in cooking and have also been simmered into a syrup and used medicinally for colds, croup, and pneumonia. Some native peoples also reportedly crushed the plant and applied it to bee and wasp stings to relieve pain. 

As for me, I just use it to please my eye and for the benefit of several small butterfly species that seem to like it as well. This is a Funereal Duskywing enjoying its nectar on a spring day.

Happy Wildflower Wednesday and let's all resolve to plant more natives in our gardens this year.

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