Allium sativum L.


Allium sativum plant

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb from a bulb.

Stems - Aerial stems to 1 m tall, erect, simple, herbaceous, green ,glabrous, terete, mostly hollow. Bulb of many bulblets, to 4.5 cm, with a papery coating and fibrous roots. Bulblets with at least one flat side.

Allium sativum bulbBulb.

Allium sativum bulbBulb after removal of the papery coating.

Leaves - 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, with a prominent midrib, with sheathing bases.

Allium sativum leaf baseLeaf base.

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.

Allium sativum inflorescenceInflorescence.

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 and tubular with acute lobes to 4 mm long.

Allium sativum bulbletsBulblets.

Fruits - Not produced.

Flowering - May - July.

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

Origin - Progenitors native to Eurasia.

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. 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.