Taper Tipped Onion

The flower parts of taper tipped onion (Allium acuminatum), a member of the Lily Family, occur in threes or multiples of three.  A perennial native, taper tipped onion is found below 6,000 feet in all states west of the Rockies and in British Columbia. Its ecology is open, rocky slopes or, occasionally, open, dry forests.

A single taper tipped onion stem arises from a deeply buried, grey-brown, egg shaped bulb with a fibrous network on the surface. The plant has two or three long, narrow, grass-like, basal leaves that wither before the flowers appear.

The taper tipped onion inflorescence is an umbel (stalks of the flowers all arise from one point) at the tip of the stem containing 7 to 25 taper tipped onion flowers. These rose-purple (rarely white) flowers have 3 sepals and 3 petals that are stiff and parchment-like. The sepals and petals are similar in color and shape -tepals. The 3 inner tepals are shorted than the 3 outer tepals and all are pointed and curved at the tip. Two bracts are visible under the umbel.

Many black seeds are contained in the taper tipped onion fruit, which is a capsule.

The entire taper tipped onion plant has a typical onion odor and taste and is edible. Although the taste of the small bulbs can be quite strong, sSome Native Americans ate the bulbs. Although taper tipped onions can form dense populations, their distribution is somewhat restricted and thus should not be harvested from the wild.

Allium, the genus name, is the Latin word for garlic. The species designation, acuminatum, derives from the Latin “acuminate” meaning “pointed” and refers to the tapering top of each tepal. Another common name for A. acuminatum is Hooker’s onion.

These taper tipped onions were growing along Lassen County (CA) Road 527, also knows as Ash Valley Road, in June.

 

 

 

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