Allium tuberosum (Chinese Chives)

Plant Info
Also known as: Garlic Chives
Genus:Allium
Family:Alliaceae (Onion)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Southeast Asia
Habitat:sun; gardens, roadsides, fields
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:12 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 6-petals Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Flowers are produced in a showy round cluster (umbel), about 2 inches across, at the tip of a sturdy, leafless stalk. Each cluster may have up to +50 buds though only a portion are open each day during the season's bloom progression. Each flower is about ¼ inch across with 6 star-like tepals (sepal and petals are undifferentiated), 6 stamens with prominent brown tips (anthers), and a single slender style in the greenish center. A thin greenish or purplish or brown midline on the backside of the tepals can be observed on the unopen buds. Each flower has a slender stalk about 1 inch long attaching it to the main stem. At the base of the cluster are 1 to 3 papery bracts.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, flat and linear, to 12 inches long and ¼ inch wide, smooth and waxy textured when young, a mild onion odor when crushed, and very floppy. The single flowering stem is round, nearly ¼ inch in diameter and solid through the center.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Each seed capsule has three cells with 1 or 2 seeds per cell. The capsule walls turn papery brown and split open when dry revealing the black, shiny seeds inside.

Notes:

Distributed for cultivation for both its flowers and culinary purposes over the last thirty years, increasingly gardeners are noticing the highly aggressive streak in this onion species. I had this growing in my own backyard herb garden and now several years later still find it popping up here and there—seems it will not die... Not surprisingly then, it is also showing up on state weed lists. A prolific seed producer, it also multiplies by division and can form dense colonial mono-cultures over time. A high drought tolerance and herbicide resistance along with good cold hardiness likely means this will become another foreign place holder in our diminishing native ecosystems. Our images from 2011 were from the first naturalized population observed in Minnesota and provided the first herbarium record for this species in the State of Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken along Hwy 61 in southeast Redwing, Goodhue County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Goodhue County and in a private garden in Anoka County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Chris - Blue Earth county
on: 2016-09-05 15:17:52

Unknowingly I bought "garlic chives" at the farmers market a couple of years ago. Even though the main plant was removed before blooming this spring, it left behind enough seeds to keep me busy weeding all this year... I wish more people were aware of invasive species. I noticed toady UMN has Japanese barberry on a deer resistant plant list.

Posted by: Cynthia N - South Minneapolis
on: 2017-08-29 01:10:46

I'm certain this is the plant I have discovered blooming in my flowerbed. About three of them came up this spring under my forsythia bush. I wasn't sure what they were—there were some daylilies in the area too. So I left them. Today I noticed they are blooming. They look like onions gone to seed, but the leaves aren't as thick as an onion and there are more of them. I did not plant anything in this area. It had been rather overgrown and last fall we grubbed out most of the plants (yarrow, wild anemones, and weeds!). Should I be trying to get rid of them? The butterflies and bees seem to like the flowers.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-08-29 06:37:16

Yes, Cynthia, get rid of them. Keep in mind they volunteered in your yard. Left to their own devices, they will escape your yard and volunteer elsewhere, too. If you want to feed the bees, plant native a Allium. Native plant nurseries will have them. Note that even the native onions will spread in a landscape planting, but they are manageable.

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