Allium tricoccum (Wild Leek)

Plant Info
Also known as: Ramps, Three-seeded Leek
Genus:Allium
Family:Alliaceae (Onion)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist rich woods
Bloom season:June - July
Plant height:6 to 9 inches
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

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] Small round cluster of ¼-inch creamy or greenish white flowers on stout stalks about 1¼ inch long, with 2 papery bracts at the base of the cluster. Flowers have 6 tepals (petals), 6 stamens with creamy yellow tips, and a green overy with 3 globular sections in the center. Flowers appear 4 to 6 weeks after leaves have emerged, usually after they have withered away for the season.

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

[photo of leaves] 2 or 3 three basal leaves emerge from an underground bulb in early spring, 6 to 12 inches long, 1 to 4 inches wide, lance-elliptic, narrowed at both ends with a long tappered base, smooth leathery texture with faint parallel veins, toothless, dark green often tinged red at the base with a reddish stalk. The flowering stalk is smooth and green or reddish, and starts emerging as the leaves wither away for the season.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a 3-celled glossy black capsule, each cell containing 1 seed.

Notes:

A denizen of deep shady woods, Wild Leek can form thick colonies of lush green leaves in early spring but flowers are small and diminuative by comparson and often go unnoticed while in the presence of later summer species. Leaves and flowers both have a strong onion odor, especially when bruised. There are 2 varieties, both found in Minnesota. Var. tricoccum has broader leaves commonly reddish at the base and up to 50 flowers in a cluster. Var. burdickii has narrower leaves green at the base and is shorter stalked, with 20 or fewer flowers per cluster. All Allium species were formerly in the Liliaceae (Lily) family, but are now in Alliaceae (Onion).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey, Washington and Chisago counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.

Comments

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

Posted by: Anita - Rochester, MN
on: 2011-04-15 13:35:01

Clusters with 6" leaves found along the Zumbro River - south Rochester

Posted by: Charlotte - Ottertail County, Pelican Lake
on: 2012-08-03 13:55:16

Spotted this plant in the woods in early July, no leaves, just stems with finished flowers.

Posted by: Leila - Superior HIking Trail
on: 2014-05-19 21:14:44

The only green thing in the forest along the trail between Oberg Mtn and Sawbill Creek. Strong garlic smell! Smelled like a hamburger stand.

Posted by: sharon - lakeville
on: 2014-06-04 08:07:00

I have a wooded back yard which I have left as natual as possible and in the spring, the area under the trees is carpeted with them. Jack in the pulpit, a few trillium. Solomon's seal, false Solomon's seal along with yellow and purple violets emerge as well.

Posted by: Gabriel
on: 2015-04-11 22:54:38

I'm curious how to tell ramps from bluebead lilies when just the leaves are showing. They both have pretty similar leaves, and it would be nice if the page mentioned this similarity and the differences (maybe the sheen of the leaves?).

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-04-17 13:30:46

Gabriel, the easy way to tell wild leek is by breaking off a piece of leaf, crushing it between your fingers and take a whiff. The onion scent is unmistakable!

Posted by: Ben - St paul
on: 2015-04-27 08:52:56

I have been foraging for several years now. My wife believes this wild leek to be a myth. Oh lord, for just a handful for a meal I would be grateful. Hitting up vermillion river area tomorrow...hopefully the ramp dream will come to fruition!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-04-27 11:31:17

Ben, you need permission from the landowner to collect wild plants for any reason. In the case of public lands, check with the city, county or state agency that manages the land, but you can bet they'll say NO. So you'll likely need to find a private landowner who won't mind you digging up their plants.

The alternative is to buy some starter plants and put them in your own garden, then you'll have them when you want them.

Posted by: Erik - Morris, MN
on: 2016-03-27 20:01:40

I am fairly sure I observed this plant sprouting in abundance near Scandia Lake east of Morris in Stevens County--much to my surprise, as ramps are not marked as inhabiting this county on the map and the surrounding community did not appear to be a moist rich woods, but I don't know what else they could have been. (The other Allium spp. on here either have even more dissimilar habitats, aren't found anywhere near Morris, or look nothing like the plants I saw.)

Posted by: Linda - Metro area
on: 2016-04-07 09:23:16

Where can I purchase ramp bulbs in the metro area? There are lots growing along the bike trail near Hopkins, but I know I can't harvest them there. I need my own patch! Have the perfect spot, now I just need a source.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-04-07 15:38:22

Linda, see "where to buy native seeds and plants". It's on almost every page, including this one. If those vendors don't carry it one may know who does.

Posted by: Mathew - Edina
on: 2016-05-06 20:37:24

Found a small colony in Bredesen Park along the walking path.

Posted by: Loni K - Fillmore County
on: 2017-04-08 21:12:52

We have vast areas of bright green ramps in our woods every spring. I've never seen such profusion any where else in this area. Our woods are mixed maple, oak, basswood, walnut, etc, with very shallow most soils. Such a beautiful sight.

Posted by: Brian - Minneapolis
on: 2017-04-27 11:56:18

City ordinance in Minneapolis prohibits disturbing wild native plants on Minneapolis Park lands. Ramps or Wild Leeks are native in Minneapolis park areas and are popping up for first time after buckthorn invasions are removed. But please do not forage or pick/ pull them from our parks. Volunteers have spent 1,000s of hours trying to restore the ecosystem, digging them up is destructive. There are several local sources of ramps one could buy and plant in your backyard for personal use.

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