Allium sativum L.



CC = *
CW = 5
MOC = 27

© DETenaglia

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb from a bulb.

Stems - Aerial stems to 1 m tall, erect, simple, herbaceous, green, glabrous, terete, mostly hollow. Bulbs 1.5-4.5 cm long, ovoid to nearly globose, differentiating into multiple bulblets, with a papery coating and fibrous roots. Bulblets with at least one side flattened.

Allium_sativum_bulb_dirty.jpg Bulb.

© DETenaglia

Allium_sativum_bulb_clean.jpg Bulb after removal of the papery coating.

© DETenaglia

Allium_sativum_sheaths.jpg Stem and leaf sheaths.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, straplike. Leaves present in the lower 1/3 to 1/2 of the stems. Leaves flat or very slightly folded, to 50 cm long, 7-15 mm broad, linear, glabrous, often glaucous, often with a prominent midrib, not tapered to a petiole, the long sheaths pale green to white.

Allium_sativum_leaf_base.jpg Leaf base.

© DETenaglia

Allium_sativum_leaves.jpg Leaves.

© SRTurner

Inflorescence - Dense terminal umbels, with some or all flowers replaced by sessile bulblets. Inflorescence covered in a papery spathe, this with a long apiculate tip, splitting on one side at anthesis. Flower stalks longer than the flowers.

Allium_sativum_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© DETenaglia

Flowers - Flowers mostly or entirely replaced by bulblets. Bulblets glabrous, whitish or (more commonly) with a reddish tinge. If produced, the small flowers are greenish, whitish, or pinkish, the perianth bell-shaped to nearly tubular, the sepals and petals 2-4 mm long, narrowly elliptic, the tips pointed or blunt.

Allium_sativum_bulblets.jpg Bulblets.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Not produced.

Flowering - May - July.

Habitat - Waste ground, roadsides, railroads, fields, meadows, thickets, grassy areas.

Origin - Progenitors native to Eurasia.

Lookalikes - Other species of Allium.

Other info. - This tasty species is the common "Garlic" of culinary fame. It can be found scattered throughout Missouri as escapes from cultivation. Native populations are not known. Many species of Allium appear similar. This one is recognized by leaves which are flat, relatively wide (up to 1.5 cm), and occurring on the lower stem rather than being all basal. The leaves are present at flowering time. The outer bulb coat is smooth and papery, without noticeable fibers (in contrast to A. canadense). Garlic is easy to grow in our area and wild plants can become weedy if left unchecked.

A. sativum has been used by many cultures to treat nearly every ailment known to man, and this use continues to the present day. Claims range the gamut from apocryphal folk remedies to controlled clinical studies which appear to show some benefit for certain conditions. Many sources cite the compound allicin, formed enzymatically when cell walls are damaged, as the agent responsible for medicinal benefits; however, this is unlikely as the compound is unstable and does not persist in the body. Furthermore, since the enzyme responsible for its production is inactivated at low pH, garlic which is ingested will generally not generate allicin in vivo. Even if devoid of significant medicinal benefit, however, garlic will always be prized for the wonderful flavor it imparts to savory foods. Garlic is one of the relatively few seasonings which appears in nearly every major cuisine worldwide.

Photographs taken somewhere in eastern Kansas, 7-4-03 (DETenaglia); also at St. Joe State Park, St. Francois County, MO, 5-21-2020 (SRTurner).