Stalking The Wild Onion

By Elizabeth Cornell Fake, Fairfax Master Gardener
Now that spring is right around the corner, you are probably starting to look critically at your lawn and noticing some clumps of tall, thin, tubular grasses sticking out above the turf. Your first guess might be that wild onion has sprouted in your yard, but it could be wild garlic, too. Both are common weeds and look much alike. Wild onion (Allium canadense) plants looks like the spring onions you buy at the grocery store for salads, but they are more slender and definitely taller by about 6 to 12 inches. They have solid, flat leaves and can be curly at the top. Wild garlic (Allium vineale) looks very similar to wild onion, but has only two to four hollow leaves. Both grow from bulbs, but wild-onion bulbs have a fibrous, central bulb. Wild garlic has offset bulbs enclosed in a papery membrane. Both are identifiable by their sharp, acrid smell, with wild onion smelling like onion and wild garlic smelling like both onion and garlic.

Wild garlic

Wild garlic (Allium vineale)

Known as winter perennials, wild onion and wild garlic grow vigorously during the cool months and will often die back during the warmer months. Once you start mowing your lawn regularly, they are camouflaged by the other turf; they will reemerge, though, once the summer