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Nodding Wild Onion - Allium cernuum

Nodding Wild Onion - Allium cernuum

Allium cernuum, also known as Nodding Wild Onion, is a perennial wildflower native to southern Michigan and the UP, although Michigan Flora states that the UP specimens may be the result of human activity. 


Nodding Wild Onion is a low growing plant reaching 18 inches tall. Most of the height is flower stalks; foliage tends to be less than a foot in height. In moist soil, it can form dense colonies and makes a good ground cover. It has delightful flowers with a slight nod, ranging from white to pink to lavender and blooming in July/August. It prefers full sun to partial shade and will grow in muck, clay, loam, sandy loam, or rocky soil. This plant is extremely versatile on moisture requirements. It is often described as a plant of shores, wet meadows, and wetlands, but it grows in our bone-dry, sandy flower bed with enthusiasm and other sources agree that it is at home in dry soils.


The clusters of flowers are very attractive to bees, especially bumblebees, who are about the only pollinators not bothered by hanging upside down for lunch. This tactic may serve to select certain pollinators and increase the chance of an onion getting pollen delivered from another onion by bees who have mastered the trick. Hummingbirds and some butterflies are also agile enough to sip the nectar from below. Because it is a member of the onion family, Nodding Wild Onion is deer resistant. But believe it or not, a variety of insects have evolved to host on or in members of the onion family, making this plant a good host plant and a source of larvae for birds. It can also be used as a garden herb in place of chives.

  • Page updated April 2024

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