Allium siculum (Sicilian honey garlic)
Sicilian honey garlic has attractive bell-shaped flowers, but don’t be fooled by its beauty - like most members of its genus and subfamily it has an unpleasant smell when bruised.
About this species
The familiar culinary plants, onions, leeks, garlic and chives, are all members of the genus Allium, which comprises approximately 750 species.
Allium siculum is a bulbous plant with narrow leaves and a tall, straight stem with an umbel of hanging, bell-shaped flowers.
The narrow, fleshy leaves of A. siculum emerge in late winter or early spring. The flowering stems appear in May and June, as the leaves die down. The stem emerges from a loose, sheathing leaf, with the flowers enclosed in a pair of green, spathe-like bracts. When this splits, the flowers hang downwards, like small, stiff bells, with glistening nectar inside.
Geography & Distribution
Native to Europe, where it occurs from the Mediterranean to Romania. Allium siculum subsp. siculum occurs from southern France and Corsica to Italy (including Sicily). Allium siculum subsp. dioscoridis is native to eastern Romania, Bulgaria, the Crimea and western Turkey.
Allium siculum (Image: Leo Michels)
Allium siculum is a bulbous plant with narrow leaves 30–40 cm long, and forms an untidy clump at ground level. The leafless flowering stem is up to 120 cm tall, smooth and with a grey colour.
The pendulous flowers are borne in an umbel, each of which contains up to 30 individual flowers. The perianth segments (petals and sepals) are up to 17 mm long, and the inner segments have a single vein. The perianth (petals and sepals) is dull reddish in A. siculum subsp. siculum, and green and pink in A. siculum subsp. dioscoridis.
The fruiting heads are striking, with stiffly upright capsules covered by the papery remains of the perianth. The flattened seeds are 3 mm long.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
A printed plate of Allium siculum subsp. dioscoridis from a watercolour drawing by Lilian Snelling (1955), taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Image: RBG Kew)
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
See the Wiley-Blackwell Subscription Information page for rates (for both print and online).
Threats & Conservation
Allium siculum is a widespread species, though never common.
Allium siculum is grown as an ornamental.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
The Millennium Seed Bank partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in Kew's seed bank vault at Wakehurst.
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two.
Allium siculum is easily cultivated in ordinary soil, in sun or light shade. It can produce abundant seeds and become weedy. Its unpleasant smell can be detected at some distance from the plant.
This species at Kew
Allium siculum grows in the Director’s Garden at Kew.
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
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- Galanthus panjutinii (Panjutin’s snowdrop)
- Galanthus woronowii (Woronow's snowdrop)
- Leucojum vernum (spring snowflake)
This species belongs to...
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