Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A mystery plant identified: Allium schoenoprasum (in the wild)


On a bike ride in Parc National du Bic a couple of days ago, I spotted something different in the coastal grassland.  It was distinctly pink, flowers in clusters, and not something I'd seen before here in Quebec.  Much of the grassland in the park were pastures back when that part of the park was a working farm, so it's largely Rosa rugosa (lovely, even if it's not native), grasses, with vetch and a sprinkling of other adventives.

On today's bike ride, I stopped to look at it more closely.  It took some walking into the grassland (a welcome break from biking, truth be told), and I'm thinking I know this plant.


It didn't smell like anything and had a solid-feeling stem, nor were any leaves obvious at the time.  My gardening companion and I thought Persicaria, perhaps?  But it really didn't fit when I checked it out.  So I went back later in the afternoon to look more closely at the leaves.  Hmm, they were clasping around the single flowering stem, but didn't really look like a Polygonum nor a Persicaria.

A stop at the park entrance store on my way out provided the answer:  Allium schoenoprasum var. sibiricum  --  Cibuolette de SibĂ©rie -- wild chives.

In all of my years growing chives in the garden, I hadn't thought about where it might be native.  It turns out that it's circumboreal, in both Europe and North America, incredibly cold-tolerant, and widely variable in terms of ecotypes across the northern latitudes where it grows.

Hmm.  No wonder, it puzzled me. The plants in the park didn't have a scent of chives until long after crushed, the stems were really quite stout and solid compared to the garden varieties that I've grown, and the clumps, at least in this small population, were quite separate, rather than clusters.



So Allium schoenoprasum in the wild -- wow!

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