Allium canadense (Wild Garlic)

Plant Info
Also known as: Meadow Garlic
Family:Alliaceae (Onion)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; open prairie, open woods, riparian meadows, rocky outcrops
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:1 to 2 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] Rounded flower cluster at the tip of a sturdy, erect stem, encased by 2 or 3 broad, oval bracts that dry to a papery light brown. The cluster is 1 to 2 inches across, typically a mix of small, stalkless bulblets and stalked flowers, though flowers may be absent altogether. The bulblets are about ½ inch long, greenish to deep maroon, round and broadest at the base and can be short tapered to a conical tip, or the outer sheath can elongate into a round, leaf-like blade over an inch long.

[photo of secondary bulblet clusters] Occasionally secondary clusters of small bulblets form at the tip of these extensions. Flowers, when present, are white to pink (typically pale pink), ¼ to ½ inch across, on a stalk ½ to 1 inch long, with 6 tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals all similar) and 6 white to pink stamens surrounding a pale yellowish-green center.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are grass-like, as long as or shorter than the flowering stem, slender and flat, 1/10 to 2/10 inch wide and up to 12 inches long, nearly basal but sheathed around the lower 1/3 of the stem. Stems are round and unbranched. Leaves and stems are hairless and have a strong onion scent, especially when crushed. Underground bulbs are covered in a fibrous mesh.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

Minnesota populations rarely produce fruit. When present, fruits are small, three valved capsules about 1/8 inch across with a small shiny black seed in each valve.


Wild garlic can produce massive, showy displays around the moist edges of ephemeral pools of Minnesota's southwestern granite outcrops. But in much of its range, as along the banks of the Mississippi and the damp meadows of the Minnesota River Valley, it is often scarce of flower and its slender, grass-like form easily gets it lost amongst the grasses and sedges. It has revealed itself to me more than once by its fragrant onion odor after I've trampled on it. It has persisted quite well amongst my wet meadow plantings in the backyard garden and, while not of much substance, the crisp cluster of fresh bulblets can be a tasty treat when the mood strikes. There are 6 recognized varieties in North America, distinguished by a range of characteristics from flower color, fragrance, and size of the flower stalks, with var. canadense, which produces more bulblets than flowers, found in Minnesota. It is easy to distinguish from other Allium species by these bulblets and the mesh-covered underground bulbs.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Blue Mounds State Park, Rock County, Black Dog Preserve NWR, Dakota County, the Mississippi River at Clearwater, Wright County, and a private garden in Ramsey County.


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

Posted by: Jennifer - Saint Paul
on: 2020-03-20 23:43:59

My son found some of these this evening by a bubbling stream near Mounds Park. They smelled very garlicky!

Posted by: kate r - Minneapolis
on: 2020-05-28 14:41:05

We have these growing wild in the parkland near us. They are up to 3 feet tall with huge flowers, very oniony! The bulblets grow vigorously.

Posted by: JH
on: 2021-04-20 16:23:59

Does this species get weedy in a flower bed where it would overtake other native flowers?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-04-20 16:53:28

JH, many native species can be aggressive in cultivation, though I do not know if wild garlic is in that category.

Posted by: Janet Van Sloun - BLOOMINGTON
on: 2022-06-30 19:39:44

This plant is spreading in Green Circle Park, Minnetonka. Working in urban habitat restoration, anything that is spreading that I don't recognize has me worried. In 2021 it was a mystery with no flowers. I looked up Alliums in MWI but must have missed it. I found flowers drying up on 6/29/22 and googled "Allium invasive" & viewed all the .edu descriptions and many others of A. vineale vs. A. canadense. After about 10 sites I learned we have the Native A. candense! Back to MWI, I found the best description and pics of all sites visited. Way to go Katy!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-06-30 20:59:01

Thank you, Janet! :-)

Posted by: Barb T - Minneapolis
on: 2022-08-10 13:55:36

We are in Wales enjoying wild garlic butter. The leaves freeze well. Chop very fine and add to melted butter. I know it is invasive but I am trying to find it in the Twin Cities so we can enjoy at home.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-08-10 16:53:31

Barb, wild garlic is a native, not invasive, though there are other Allium species that are. Check native plant nurseries; some may carry this so you can grow your own.

Posted by: Frank@Mound - Maple Plain
on: 2023-02-03 07:37:23

Allium vineale is a weed of grass areas on sandy soils back east although I haven't yet seen it here in MN. I grew it in cultivation and learned quickly of its weedy potential. It can also be found growing, sporadically in open woods where it doubles in size thanks to woodland richer soils. Allium canadense I will grow this season. To see A canadense listed as a noxious weed over much of the east and south is likely just that it spoils forage for cattle imparting a onion-like flavor to milk. Other good plants are listed this way only because they interfere with ag. My two cents from a former garlic farmer.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-02-03 08:31:54

Frank, you are absolutely right - noxious weeds are designated as such primarily due to their effect on agriculture, not for ecological reasons.

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