Wild Onion (Allium spp.)
Wild onion (A. validum or A. canadense) is a bulbous herb of the Amaryllis family and is a close relative of cultivated onion (Allium cepa L.). It has a distinct onion odor. It has slender grass-like leaves and reaches about 2 feet in height when flowers appear in late summer. Leaves are narrow, long, and with parallel edges arising from the small underground bulb. Flowers, varying in color, depending on the species, from white to pink, appear at the top of a leafless stem and eventually become bulblets which drop to the ground and propagate.
It is thought that the name Chicago is derived from the smell of wild onions:
"Indians, mainly Potawatomi, who were the most powerful tribe around the south end of Lake Michigan, hunted, traded furs, and occasionally camped in the area they called "Checagou," evidently referring to the garlic wild onion smell which permeated the air."
Encyclopedia of Illinois, 2nd. Edition. Somerset Publishers, New York, 1994. p. 138.
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Last updated: Sep 01, 2006
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