Allium ursinum
Common Name: wild garlic 
Type: Bulb
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Native Range: Europe, Russia
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to June
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Fragrant
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Easily grown in rich, moist but well-drained loams in full sun to part shade. This is a woodland plant that is more tolerant of part shade conditions than most members of the genus. Add sand to clay soils as needed to improve drainage. This species spreads invasively by rhizomes and self-seeding, and over time can carpet large areas.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Allium ursinum, commonly called wild garlic or ramsons, is a bulbous perennial that is native to damp shaded woods in Europe and northern Asia. It produces small rounded bulbs on branched rhizomes. Each year, leaves appear in late winter, flowers bloom in spring, and seeds mature by mid-summer at which point the plants die back and go dormant until the following late winter. Each plant bears 2-3 distinctive, elliptic, linear, deep green basal leaves somewhat reminiscent of the leaves of lily-of-the-valley. If bruised or crushed, the foliage emits a strong onion/garlic-like aroma. Flattened, 2-inch diameter, loose umbels of star-shaped white flowers bloom in spring atop leafless stems rising to 6-12" (less frequently to 18") tall. Each umbel bears 15-20 flowers. Leaves and flowers may be eaten raw (salads) or cooked (addition to soups, sauces or stews). Leaf flavor begins to decline as the flowers begin to bloom. Underground bulbs can also be eaten raw or cooked.

Genus name comes from the classical Latin name for garlic.

Specific epithet comes from Latin ursus meaning bear in reference to the proclivity of bears to dig up and eat these bulbs in the wild.

An additional common name for this plant is bear's garlic. Common name of ramsons is from Middle English ramsyn.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Bulb rot may occur in overly moist soils. Mildew, rust and leaf spots may appear.

Garden Uses

Wild garlic is an attractive spring-flowering perennial which may be grown for both ornamental and culinary uses. This plant should only be located in garden areas where its invasive spread will not interfere with other plantings. Flowering drifts can be a sight of great beauty on the forest floor, but are not so beautiful when they begin to form in a perennial border.