Monday, February 22, 2010

february allium

This deeply uninspiring photo is meant to show a typical piece of grass verge in Frome, taken on Saturday. Our grass looks very green and lush, doesn't it? But no, look closer, and you realize that most of the green lushness is not grass at all, but wild onion (Allium vineale). I remember being very struck by this when I first moved to the west country nearly twenty years ago, though I've never until now really focussed on exactly what plant I was seeing. The thing is that while this invasion of Allium is quite striking in February, you stop noticing it when the grass catches up. I'm ashamed to say that I always supposed it was chives (Allium schoenoprasum) that had escaped from gardens. But chives is much slower to get started in the spring, and is a fresh green rather than a bluey green, and the leaves are truly cylindrical, not sub-cylindric.

In the UK Allium vineale is known as "wild onion" or "crow garlic". In the US it is usually called "wild garlic", but in the UK this seems always to refer to Allium ursinum aka "ramsons", the familiar strong waft from woods in spring.

A. vineale is relished by cattle but not by farmers. It is supposed to flavour the milk and even the meat.

Places I've noticed Allium this year (often from a speeding car):

1. Frome, opposite the end of Button St (as shown in these photos)
2. Frome, Whitewell Road, in a sloping lawn
3. Frome, border of Victoria Park
4. Churchill-Banwell, scattered along the verges.
5. Bath, Bathwick Hill beside (and into) field.
6. Southwick, SE corner.
7. North Bradley, West end near village sign
8. Beanacre, under trees. (Tall)
9. Lackham, roundabout (over a large area).
10. Batheaston, Bannerdown Hill
11. Colerne, road-verge and wood

[The seven roundabouts of Chippenham are:
Lackham, Chequers, Cepen Park South, Bumpers Farm, Brook, Badger, Malmesbury Road.
I thought you'd like to know this! The names of the rookeries of Melksham are unknown to me.]



At 6:14 am, Blogger Vincent said...

Months later, I remember that I never responded to this post to report that soon after reading it I spotted lots of allium on grass verges in High Wycombe, specifically some of the newest ones, e.g. the road that has been constructed to link the Cressex Industrial Estate with the ASDA/John Lewis shopping outpost & new comprehensive school.

I never saw it on more established verges.


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