Allium ursinum - Ramsons

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

Ramsons, or wild garlic

Ramsons, or Wild Garlic as it is sometimes (correctly) called, advertises its presence by its very strong odour, especially if stems are crushed.

Identification

Plants of Ramsons typically have two or three leaves up to 4cm wide and 30cm long. Bulbs form from the base of a leaf stalk. Umbels of garlic-scented white flowers produce capsules that contain the seeds, but reproduction is mainly vegetative rather than via the seeds.

Allium ursinum, Ramsons, closeup of flowers

Distribution

Allium ursinum is common and widespread throughout Britain and Ireland as well as in eastern parts of Asia.

Habitat

Ramsons carpets woodland floors and roadside verges in damp shady places.

Blooming Times

The first few flowers may appear towards the end of March or in early April, but May and early June are when this striking wildflower is at its best in Britain.

Uses

Ramsons, a relative of the cultivated Leek, is an edible plant and has been used in cooking for hundreds of years. It has a more delicate flavour than the garlic cloves with which we are familiar.

Allium ursinum, Ramsons, side view

Etymology

Allium is the Latin word for garlic, while the specific epithet ursinum refers to a bear (just as Ursa Major = The Great Bear, a star constellation). Whether bears enjoy eating Ramsons is uncertain, but there are bears and Ramsons in parts of mainland Europe!

The Ramson plants shown on this page were photographed in spring in West Wales, where roadsides and woodlands are carpeted by these invasive wildflowers.


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