False garlic looks like a wild garlic or onion plant, but it doesn’t smell like one. The flowers are on on separate stalks arising from the same point at the top of a tall, leafless stalk; each flower has 6 tepals (petals and sepals combined) that look alike and are white, yellowish, or greenish. Blooms March–May; sometimes flowers again in October–November. Leaves are basal, grasslike (flattened, not hollow), and lower than the flowers. The rootstock is a bulb. Although false garlic looks like an onion or garlic plant, it does not have the characteristic odor.
Similar species: Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is a common lawn weed that also has flowers with 6 tepals, but its tepals are always bright white with a green stripe under each, and they are not as pointy as those of false garlic. Star of Bethlehem's leaves are dark green, rolled inward, with a white stripe running down the center.
Habitat and Conservation
Many different flowers grow in our prairies, and this is one of them. At first glance, a native prairie looks like "just a lot of grass," but as this plant shows, not all are truly grasses. There can be over 200 species of plants in even a small tallgrass prairie.
This is one of Missouri's earliest blooming wildflowers. As such, it is an important nectar source for one of our earliest-emerging butterflies, the falcate orangetip.