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Allium cernuum facts for kids

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Nodding onion
Allium cernuum 3153.JPG
A plant in bloom in Anacortes, Washington
Scientific classification
  • Allium alatum Schreb. ex Roth
  • Allium allegheniense Small
  • Allium cernuum f. alba J.K.Henry
  • Allium cernuum subsp. neomexicanum (Rydb.) Traub & Ownbey
  • Allium cernuum var. neomexicanum (Rydb.) J.F.Macbr.
  • Allium cernuum f. obtusum Cockerell
  • Allium cernuum var. obtusum (Cockerell) Cockerell
  • Allium cernuum subsp. obtusum (Cockerell) Traub & Ownbey
  • Allium cernuum var. obtusum Cockerell ex J.F. Macbr.
  • Allium neomexicanum Rydb.
  • Allium nutans Schult. & Schult.f.
  • Allium oxyphilum Wherry
  • Allium recurvatum Rydb.
  • Allium tricorne Poir.
  • Calliprena cernua (Roth) Salisb.
  • Cepa cernua (Roth) Moench
  • Gynodon cernuum (Roth) Raf.
  • Gynodon elliotii Raf.
  • Gynodon rupestre Raf.

Allium cernuum, known as nodding onion or lady's leek, is a perennial plant in the genus Allium. It grows in dry woods, rock outcroppings, and prairies. It has been reported from much of the United States, Canada and Mexico including in the Appalachian Mountains from Alabama to New York State, the Great Lakes Region, the Ohio and Tennessee River Valleys, the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri, and the Rocky and Cascade Mountains of the West, from Mexico to Washington. It has not been reported from California, Nevada, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Delaware, New England, or much of the Great Plains. In Canada, it grows from Ontario to British Columbia.


Allium cernuum is a herbaceous perennial growing from an unsheathed elongated conical bulb which gradually tapers directly into several keeled (thin and flat) grass-like leaves (2–4 mm, 0.079–0.157 in wide). Each mature bulb bears a single flowering stem, which terminates in a downward nodding umbel of white or rose, campanulate (bell-shaped) flowers that bloom in July and August. The flowers are arranged into downward facing umbels and each flower is about 5 mm (0.20 in) across, pink or white with yellow pollen and yellow anthers. A. cernuum does not have bulblets in the inflorescence. The flowers mature into spherical crested fruits which later split open to reveal the dark shiny seeds.


Allium cernuum can be found growing in deciduous woodlands, to open grasslands.

The species has a wide geographical distribution but is absent from much of its range. In the southern part of its range in North America it is limited to mountainous habitats, and in other parts of its North American range it is limited to local and disjunct population. It is absent from North Dakota and most of the great plains states and intermountain region of the USA. In Minnesota it is listed as a threatened species.


Allium cernuum is edible and has a strong onion flavor, and has often been used in cooking. It is grown in gardens for its distinctive nodding flowers that are white, pink, or maroon; it is winter hardy in USDA zones 3–9.

Similar species

In addition to other species of Allium, wild garlic, field garlic, and wild leek look similar. Any onion-like plant which lacks the expected odor should be suspect of being a similar-looking poisonous species, namely deathcamas.

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