Plant Relative: Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum)
Nodding Onion is an edible native plant with a similar taste to onion and chives. This plant relative can be found in many of our garden beds and meadows.
Nodding Onion is an edible native plant with a similar taste to onion and chives. It can be found in many of our garden beds and meadows.
- Grows up to 45cm tall. Simple stem and leaves (similar look to green onion)
- Small, clustered pink flowers that “nod” downwards.
- Seed heads found in 3-lobed capsules
- Whole plant smells strongly of onion when crushed.
- Found in dry open woods and exposed grassy places
- Prefers sandy soils, low elevations and is often found with Douglas-fir
- Flowers from June to August
- Shares the same genus as garlic, onion, leeks and chives
Bird and Pollinator Relationships:
Visited by a wide variety of native bees, wasps and hoverflies.
Traditional Use, Food and Medicine:
Consumed by many First Nations including the Cowichan, Sechelt, Squamish, Comox, Tsimshian, Makah and Kwakwaka’wakw. Bulbs are cooked/steamed in pits. Mainland Comox cooked them with seal and duck to take away fishy flavour. When cooked, nodding onion loses its strong odour and flavour and becomes sweet and blackish in colour. The district of Lillooet was once covered in nodding onions; in the Salish language, Lillooet means “place of many onions.”
Often confused by novice harvesters with death camas which does not have an onion smell (i.e. how to tell them apart).
Habitat loss due to housing and industrial development. Threatened by environmental pollution and invasive species.
Sources: Plants of Coastal BC (Pojar & Mackinnon), Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast (Varner), SD61 (https://ied.sd61.bc.ca/nodding-onion/)