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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Pink Wild Onion (Allium stellatum)

All but the extreme southwestern corner of North Dakota is home to the pink wild onion. Elsewhere, the plant grows from Illinois to south-central Canada south to Texas.

Pink wild onion is a perennial or biennial plant up to two feet tall, but most North Dakota specimens are only about 12-18 inches tall. Plants have two to six leaves; these are narrow and about 2/3 the length of the main flower stalk. About 15-20 small pink flowers with tiny pedicels about 1/2 inch long form a flower head about one to two inches wide at the top of the stalk. One or two slightly elongated bulbs with membranous coverings lie below ground.

Look for pink wild onion during July to September in native prairies that are not severely overgrazed. This plant is less common than the white wild onion (A. textile) and seems to favor slightly more fertile soils. The main use of the Alliums is for food and some are used for colorings, glues, medicines, and cosmetics, but I could find no such references for pink wild onion.

The wild onions are members of the lily family (Liliaceae) which contains about 3,800 species distributed throughout the world except for arctic and antarctic regions. In addition to the onions, the family contains the garlics, chives, and leeks. There are about 500 species of Allium; all are found in the northern hemisphere. A few are said to be poisonous to livestock. Allium is the ancient Latin name of garlic. Stellatum means "starry" in botanical Latin, in reference to the arrangement of the flower petals. Pink wild onion was first described for science in the early 1800's by John Bellenden Ker (1764-1842), first editor of Edward's Botanical Register.

Return to Liliaceae (The Lily Family)
Next Species -- White Wild Onion (Allium textile)

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