Nodding Onion Identification – Allium cernuum

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This post is part of our “100 Plants and Mushrooms” series. Here, you’ll see the plant’s main parts – its leaves, flowers, fruits, and more – all with key identification features.

Nodding Onion, scientifically called Allium cernuum, is a part of the Amaryllidaceae family. The Nodding Onion is an apt name. The term “nodding” often makes one think of a downward tilt, which mirrors the unique flower positioning of this plant.

Nodding Onion: Key Parts in Photos

Where to find it

Nodding onion has a unique pattern when it comes to where it grows. Despite covering a broad geographic area, it’s surprisingly absent in many regions. In the southern parts of North America, you’ll mostly find it in the mountains. However, in several areas, especially in places like North Dakota and much of the Great Plains, it doesn’t grow at all. But where it does grow, its preferences vary widely, from shady deciduous woodlands to sunlit open grasslands.

How to identify Nodding Onion

Nodding Onion’s stems are light green, smooth, round in cross-section, and remain straight throughout their length. Their slender green leaves occasionally come with a tinge of red, particularly near the base. These leaves are linear, standing upright or arching slightly. They can grow quite long, often reaching lengths of up to 12 inches. The texture is smooth, the margins are smooth with parallel venation.

The flowers typically bloom from June to August. Depending on the specific plant, these flowers can be pink, lavender, or white. Each flower is bell-shaped, and every flower consists of six tepals surrounding distinct yellow stamens. These delicate blossoms gather in clusters, creating a showy display. Nodding Onion has small, spherical crested fruits that are less than an inch in size. These fruits split open to release their shiny black seeds.

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