Allium ampeloprasum - Wild Leek

Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Asparagales - Family: Asparagaceae

Allium ampeloprasum, Wild Leek

By the time Wild Leek is in full bloom, its leaves are very likely to have shriveled and become unrecognisable. Fortunately, however, the flowers are quite distinctive.

Identification

From bulbs up to 3cm in diameter, round stems, known as scapes, grow to typically 50cm but exceptionally to well over a metre in height. Each scape carries an umbel of typically 100 but occasionally up to 500 deeply-cupped flowers.

The individual flowers are up to 6mm in diameter with white, pink or reddish tepals. The anthers are often yellow but sometimes purple.

Distribution

In Britain and Ireland this lovely wildflower is rare and restricted to the coastal areas of the south west of England and the West of Ireland. This relative of Wild Garlic is common in the Iberian Peninsula and throughout the Mediterranean region.

Together with all other Allium species and several other related groups, this wildflower was until recently classified as a member of the Lily family (liliaceae), but recent taxonomic revisions now place it in the family Asparagaceae.

Habitat

Wild Leek colonises sandy edges of fields and coastal paths, but these plants can also be found on fallow farmland further inland.

Blooming Times

Depending on location Wild Leek blooms from May until July.

At first the inflorescence appears in an almost perfect globe, but as the flowers age they droop forming the rather attractive waterfall effect seen in the picture on the left.

Uses

It is widely believed that cultivated leeks were derived from this species.

Etymology

Allium is the Latin word for garlic, while the specific epithet ampeloprasum comes from rom the Greek ampelos meaning vine, and prason meaning leek.

The specimen shown here was photographed in the Algarve region of Portugal in May.


Volume 1

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