Wild Onion

Photo of pink wild onion flower clusters
Safety Concerns
Scientific Name
Allium stellatum
Liliaceae (lilies) (some references place it in the Amaryllidaceae)

Wild onion is a perennial, growing from a bulb, with the odor of onion or garlic. Flowers in umbels (the flowers all arising from the tip of the stalk) that are held erect at flowering (not drooping), each flower resembling a 6-pointed star with the petals spreading widely, pink (sometimes white), showy. Blooms July–November. Leaves basal, narrow, flat.

Similar species: Nodding wild onion (A. cernuum) is found in the same region and habitats. It is distinguished by its nodding (not erect) flowerheads and, especially, by its bell-shaped (not broadly spreading) flowers. It also tends to flower earlier in the season (June–September).

Other Common Names
Wild Pink Onion
Prairie Onion
Autumn Onion

Height: stalks to 12 inches.

Where To Find
image of Wild Onion Wild Pink Onion distribution map

Mainly south of the Missouri River; absent from the Bootheel. Scattered in the Ozark and Ozark Border divisions, locally north to Lincoln, Boone, and Pettis counties.

Glades and exposed bluffs, openings of dry upland forests, mostly on calcareous substrates; also on rocky roadsides. This is the characteristic summer-blooming wild onion in the Ozarks. Its relative, nodding wild onion (A. cernuum), is also found in the Ozarks, in much the same habitats, but it is less common.

Our wild onions are edible and can be eaten as a vegetable, seasoning, or pickled. To ensure you don't accidentally eat an extremely poisonous relative, make sure all parts of the plant have a strong onion smell. All wild onions and garlics arise from bulbs and have flowers in umbels.

Small bees and flower flies visit the showy flowers, but the onion-flavored oils make the leaves unpalatable to most mammals. When cattle eat it as they graze, the milk they produce can take on an oniony flavor.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!