Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Finding Wild Garlic

Early spring, about three weeks after the last snow-melt, is the best time to find Wild Garlic (Allium candense).  The life cycle of garlic mimics the life-cycle of winter wheat.  It grows a little bit each time there is a thaw.  Nearly all vegetation has been beaten down by the heavy, melting snow.  Most species associated with wild garlic (like Goldenrod) are brown and flattened.  Wild Garlic is a bright green-yellow and will oftentimes carpet prime habitat.

Wild Garlic's competitive advantage is that it does most of its growing in early spring when the days are long but most other species have not leafed out or gotten their full height.

What is prime habitat for Wild Garlic


It likes floodplains, alluvial soils and the sides of ditches.  I have seen it growing where parking lot run-off keeps the ground moist.

It will not be under evergreens or most oak trees.  They provide too much shade during Wild Garlic's prime growing times.

These will be about two feet tall.  Image from HERE
Mid-June (in Michigan) is when the scapes are uncoiling and the plant is quite distinctive.

A few weeks later they will look like this.  Scapes are 30-to-36" tall.  At this stage the remind me of the minarets common in Islamic architecture.  Image from HERE
Then bulblets form on the tops of the scapes.  Most Wild Garlic spreads via bulblets as few viable seeds are spread.  The scapes fall over and produce a clump about 30" from the "mother plant".  The clump is genetically identical to the mother plant, i.e., it is a clone.  Picking these bulblets and dropping them in likely places is the lazy man's way to propagate Wild Garlic.
The plant then goes dormant until the rains of autumn come.  It will become dominant in places where herbicide is sprayed in early August.  The plant will be dormant and the herbicide will nuke the competition. Powerline right-of-ways, rural roads and other places where herbicides are used can be productive places to scout for Wild Garlic.

All remaining photos taken on ERJ's property on November 3, 2015.

Typical clumping habit.  Leaves are V" shaped in cross section and are notably soft.  The single most distinctive feature is the garlic smell which is pungent enough to smell when it is crushed by walking across it.  The smell is reminiscent of really good bologna lunch meat.

The stems are notably vertical and the base is "leggy".

Each clump is comprised of many, individual plantlets.  This stuff is prolific.
One shovelful.

The same bunch with the dirt washed off.

The roots look like this.

Teased apart into bunches of about ten plantlets each.
Spread out on a lawn chair.  There are eight bunches of (about) ten plants that came out of that shovelful.
Each bunch of ten can be teased apart into individual plants and the plants can be planted on 6"-by-6" centers.  That means that plantlets in that one shovelful can plant 20 square feet.

Good Luck!!!


  1. Thanks, Joe. I have indeed seen the stuff. I just never knew what it was. I will be on the lookout for it in the spring, and perhaps try and transplant some of it on my son's property in Howard City. Neat stuff.

  2. That is something that one sees along a lot of trails and power lines in the South too!

  3. That is something that one sees along a lot of trails and power lines in the South too!