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Allium cepa L.

garden onion

New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

Where native and non-native distributions co-occur in a county, only the native distribution is shown.

North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Garden onion is cultivated worldwide. Although it there is no known wild progenitor, the nearest wild relative is Allium oschanini, a species from central Asia. There are many cultivars of onion, with a wide range of morphologies, including some with bulbils in the inflorescence. Garden onion may escape within areas of cultivation or agriculture, and occurs sporadically across North America, including New England.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), meadows and fields

Characteristics

Habitat
terrestrial
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
Leaf arrangement
the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant (basal)
Leaf blade shape
the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
Leaf blade length
100–500 mm
Flower petal color
  • pink to red
  • white
Flower petal length
3–4.5 mm
Petal fusion
the perianth parts are separate
Inflorescence type
the inflorescence is an umbel (with an axis so short it appears the flowers all originate from the same point)
Ovary position
the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
Fruit type (specific)
the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
Fruit length
Up to 5 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther color
    the anthers show no hint of a pink, reddish or purplish tint
    Bulblets replace flowers
    there are no bulblets where the flowers are located
    Carpels fused
    the carpels are fused (the number of carpels equals the number of locules)
    Filament surface
    the filament surface has no hairs or scales on it
    Flower bracts
    there are bracts associated with the flower
    Flower number
    Up to 500
    Flower orientation
    the flowers point upward or spread or curve outward
    Flower petal color
    • pink to red
    • white
    Flower petal length
    3–4.5 mm
    Flower shape
    • the flower has an urn-shaped corolla (constricted at the opening)
    • the flower is bell-shaped
    Flower symmetry
    there are two or more ways to evenly divide the flower (the flower is radially symmetrical)
    Flowering stem width
    3–20 mm
    Form of style
    the style is knob-like at the tip, and unbranched
    Fringed petal edges
    the petals are not fringed
    Hairs on flower stalk
    the flower stalk has no hairs on it
    Inflorescence hair glands
    the axis of the inflorescence has no hairs on it
    Inflorescence length
    300–1000 mm
    Inflorescence type
    the inflorescence is an umbel (with an axis so short it appears the flowers all originate from the same point)
    Inflorescence width
    3–20 mm
    Length of flower stalk
    10–50 mm
    Length of peduncle
    Up to 1000 mm
    Marks on petals
    there are no noticeable marks on the petals
    Number of carpels
    3
    Number of pistils
    1
    Number of sepals and/or petals
    there are six petals, sepals or tepals in the flower
    Number of styles
    1
    Ovary position
    the ovary is above the point of petal and/or sepal attachment
    Petal and sepal arrangement
    the flower includes two cycles of petal- or sepal-like structures
    Petal appearance
    the petals are thin and delicate, and pigmented (colored other than green or brown)
    Petal base
    the petal narrows gradually or does not narrow at the base
    Petal fusion
    the perianth parts are separate
    Petal hairs on inner/upper surface
    there are no hairs on the inner/upper petal surface
    Sepal appearance
    the sepals resemble petals in color and texture
    Sepal length
    3–4.5 mm
    Sepal orientation
    • the sepals are pressed against the plant, or jutting stiffly upward
    • the sepals are slightly curved outwards from the plant
    Sepals fused only to sepals
    the sepals are separate from one another
    Stamen number
    6
    Stamen position relative to petals
    NA
    Stamen types
    the stamens within a cycle are distinctly of two types
    Stamens fused
    the stamens are not fused to one another
    Stamens fused outwards
    the stamens are fused to the petals or tepals at or near their bases
    Style petal-like
    the style is not broad and flattened like a petal
    Tepals
    the petals and sepals are similar in size and color
  • Fruits or seeds
    Berry color
    NA
    Capsule ridges
    there are no ribs or wings on the capsule
    Fruit cross-section
    the fruit is round in cross-section
    Fruit length
    Up to 5 mm
    Fruit stalk orientation
    the fruits point upward or spread or curve outward
    Fruit type (general)
    the fruit is dry and splits open when ripe
    Fruit type (specific)
    the fruit is a capsule (splits along two or more seams, apical teeth or pores when dry, to release two or more seeds)
    Other markings on berry
    NA
  • Glands or sap
    Sap
    the sap is clear and watery
  • Growth form
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Root septa
    the roots do not have transverse septa
    Underground organs
    the plant has one or more swollen storage organs underground, such as bulbs, tubers or corms
  • Leaves
    Hairs on underside of leaf blade
    the underside of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Hairs on upper side of leaf blade
    the upper side of the leaf is not hairy, or has very few hairs
    Leaf arrangement
    the leaves are growing only at the base of the plant (basal)
    Leaf blade basal lobes
    the leaf blades do not have basal lobes
    Leaf blade base
    the leaf has no stalk
    Leaf blade base shape
    the base of the leaf blade is cuneate (wedge-shaped, tapers to the base with relatively straight, converging edges), or narrow
    Leaf blade bloom
    the underside of the leaf blade has no noticeable waxy or powdery bloom
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is round or semicircular
    Leaf blade faces
    both surfaces of the leaf blade are exposed
    Leaf blade length
    100–500 mm
    Leaf blade orientation
    the upper surface of the leaf blade faces the stem of the plant
    Leaf blade shape
    the leaf blade is linear (very narrow with more or less parallel sides)
    Leaf blade surface colors
    the upper side of the leaf blade is relatively uniform in color
    Leaf blade tip
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acuminate (tapers to a long, thin point)
    • the tip of the leaf blade is acute (sharply pointed)
    Leaf blade veins
    the lateral veins are parallel or slightly arched in the direction of the tip
    Leaf blade width
    3–20 mm
    Leaf blades
    the plant has leaf blades
    Leaf stalk length
    0 mm
    Leaf type
    the leaves are simple (lobed or unlobed but not separated into leaflets
    Leaflet number
    0
    Stipule twining
    NA
    Stipules
    there are no stipules on this plant
  • Place
    Habitat
    terrestrial
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
  • Scent
    Plant odor
    the leaves smell of onion or garlic
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Flowering stem growth form
    the flowering stem is held upright
    Flowering stem interior
    • the flowering stem is hollow
    • the flowering stem is solid
    Flowering stem leaves
    there are no true leaves on the flowering stem

Wetland Status

Not classified

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
absent
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. cepa

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

var. viviparum

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

No

Family

Alliaceae

Genus

Allium

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

2.  Allium cepa L. E

garden onion. Allium cepa L. var. bulbiferum Bailey; A. cepa L. var. viviparum M.C. Metz 
• CT, MA, ME, NH, VT. Fields and disturbed soil in areas of cultivation or agriculture. Many different cultivars exist for this plant. Some of them have bulbils in the inflorescence. 
Leaf blade characteristics will serve to identify such plants.