Nothoscordum bivalve (L.) Britton

False Garlic


CC = 4
CW = 3
MOC = 68

© SRTurner

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb, with bulbs covered with a membranous to papery, smooth, outer coat, lacking the odor of onion or garlic, glabrous.

Stems - Erect, to 35 cm, 2-3 mm in diameter, unbranched, glabrous, hollow.

Leaves - Basal, usually numbering 2-6, linear, flattened, glabrous, to 25 cm long, 3-4 mm broad.

Nothoscordum_bivalve_leaves.jpg Leaves.

© SRTurner

Inflorescence - Terminal umbels of 3-11 flowers, subtended by 2 membranous, spathelike bracts. Flowers with stalks 20-50 mm long, none of them replaced by bulblets.

Nothoscordum_bivalve_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Perianth 8-11 mm long, the 6 tepals free, broadly spreading, oblong-elliptic, white to light yellow, greenish at the base, sometimes with a purplish stripe on the outside surface. Stamens 6, fused to the base of the perianth. Style 1, glabrous, the stigma entire or shallowly 3-lobed. Ovary superior, with 3 locules, each with 3-10 ovules. Ovary superior, glabrous, with 3 locules, many seeded.

Nothoscordum_bivalve_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Nothoscordum_bivalve_tepals2.jpg Rear (external) view of tepals.

© SRTurner

Nothoscordum_bivalve_tepals1.jpg Tepals.

© SRTurner

Nothoscordum_bivalve_flower.jpg Flower.

© DETenaglia

Fruits - Ellipsoid capsules.

Flowering - March - May, sometimes again in October-November.

Habitat - Glades, prairies, streambanks, upland forest openings, fields, prairies, roadsides.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Lookalikes - Species of Allium.

Other info. - This tiny yet unmistakable lily is common throughout the southern 2/3 of Missouri, less common or absent in northern counties. It is also found across the southern half of the continental U.S. from Arizona to the Atlantic Coast, and southward into South America. Although resembling an allium, it has no garlic or onion odor whatsoever.

The species has been subdivided into varieties, with Missouri plants being assignable to var. bivalve. The other variety, var. nanum, grows in Argentina. Another colloquial name for the plant is "crow poison," however, there is little credible evidence that the plant is actually toxic. There is a curious and unusual lack of claims regarding culinary or medicinal uses of this plant.

Photographs taken off Highway 21, Chatham County, NC., 4-23-03, and off Lee Rd 54, Lee County, AL., 3-13-06 (DETenaglia); also at Young Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 4-17-2013, and Matson Hill County Park, St. Charles County, MO, 4-14-2016 (SRTurner).