nodding wild onion

(Allium cernuum var. cernuum)

Conservation Status
nodding wild onion
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

S2 - Imperiled


Special Concern

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

UPL - Obligate upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Nodding wild onion is an erect perennial forb rising from 2 to 5, sometimes more, clustered bulbs.

The bulbs are to 1 tall, to wide, elongate, slender, and cone-shaped. They are encased in a brownish or grayish membranous coating. They gradually taper to the stem.

Three to five basal leaves arise near together at the soil surface forming a basal rosette. They are shorter than the stem. They are 4 to 18 long, about wide, linear, flat, soft, and solid, with a small ridge running the length of the blade. They sheath the stem near the soil surface. They remain after the flowers are fully formed.

A single, leafless, flowering stem (scape) rises from the center of the rosette of leaves. When in bud, the scape bends downward (nods) at the top, and the umbel faces toward the ground. The scape is permanently nodding. By the time the flowers are mature the umbel faces upward on the still bent scape.

The inflorescence is a single umbrella-like flowering cluster at the top of the scape. The cluster is shaped like half of a sphere. It has 8 to 35 flowers and no bulblets. There are two bracts at the base of the cluster that soon fall off. When in bud, the cluster bends downward (nods) at the top of the scape. When the flowers are fully mature the scape is still (permanently) nodding, but the flowers may become erect or semi-erect.

The flowers are ¼ wide and bell-shaped. They are composed of 6 white to pink tepals (3 petals and 3 sepals that are similar in appearance). They are on ¼ to 1 long flower stalks, the inner ones on shorter stalks, the outer ones on longer stalks, like an umbrella. There is no floral fragrance, but the bulb and foliage have an onion-like scent.

The fruit is a seed capsule. The pedicels become stouter with the fruit, growing longer and bending abruptly upright from near the point of attachment.




1 to 2


Flower Color


White to pink


Similar Species


Meadow garlic (Allium canadense var. canadense) blooms much earlier, May to June. The scape never nods. It has 3 to 6 basally-sheathed leaves, attached only in the lower quarter or third of the stem. The leaves are flat and soft. Most or all of the flowers in the inflorescence have been replaced with bulblets. The flowers are ½ wide.

Prairie onion (Allium stellatum) has egg-shaped bulbs. The leaves are stiff. The scape nods when the flowers are in bud but becomes erect by the time the flowers are fully open. The individual flowers of prairie onion are star-shaped.

Textile onion (Allium textile) is a shorter plant, reacing only 4 to 12 at maturity. It blooms much earlier, May to June. It has only 1 or 2 basal leaves. The leaves are half-round, more or less straight, and solid, with a wide, rounded channel running the length of the blade. The scape is erect, not nodding, and does not rise above the level of the leaves. The tepals are white, only rarely pink, and have red or reddish-brown midribs.


Moist to dry. Prairies, hillsides, dry woods, rock banks. Full sun.




July to September




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 28.

The USDA PLANTS database shows this species present in 62 counties in Minnesota. All other sources show this species to be much rarer. The map at left does not include results from the PLANTS database.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Liliopsida (monocots)  


Asparagales (agaves, orchids, irises, and allies)  


Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis, onions, and allies)  
  Subfamily Allioideae  
  Tribe Allieae  


Allium (onion)  
  Subgenus Amerallium  
  Section Lophioprason  



Allium allegheniense

Allium cernuum var. cernuum

Allium cernuum var. neomexicanum

Allium cernuum var. obtusum

Allium natans

Allium neomexicanum

Allium oxyphilum

Allium recurvatum


Common Names


lady’s leek

nodding onion

nodding wild onion

wild onion












Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



Drawn out, lengthened.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



On plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. On insects: the second segment of the antenna. On Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen: the preferred term is petiole.



An erect, leafless stalk growing from the rootstock and supporting a flower or a flower cluster.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.



Refers to both the petals and the sepals of a flower when they are similar in appearance and difficult to tell apart. Tepals are common in lilies and tulips.



A flat-topped or convex umbrella-shaped cluster of flowers or buds arising from more or less a single point.

Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption. Photos


  nodding wild onion   nodding wild onion


  nodding wild onion    



  Allium cernuum
Butler Herbarium
  Allium cernuum  
  Allium cernuum NODDING WILD ONION
Frank Mayfield
  Allium cernuum NODDING WILD ONION  



Visitor Videos

Share your video of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more videos or YouTube links and, if you like, a caption.

Other Videos
  Nodding Onion - Allium cernuum blooming at Ion Exchange

Uploaded on Aug 7, 2011

Earthyman views priaire plant, Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) in bloom at native seed and plant nursery in northeast Iowa.

  Flora View - Allium cernuum - sierui - Amerikaanse look - lady's leek

Published on Jul 29, 2012

Looking for flora? Don't shoot! Contact ©
playlist stinzenflora:
playlist flora:
playlist Dutch native plants / heemflora:
More plants and their uses:
Flower Fortune blog:
Follow us on Twitter:
Follow us on Pinterest:

© All Rights reserved by Fauna Film B.V.

- Allium cernuum - sierui - Amerikaanse look - lady's leek in my traditional kitchen garden, also known as a kailyard, or potager.
Allium cernuum, known as nodding wild onion and lady's leek, is a perennial plant in the genus Allium. It is native to North America. The bulb is edible and has a strong onion flavor.

  Nodding Wild Onion
Karl Foord

Published on Sep 29, 2013

No description available.

  Bumblebees Visit Nodding Wild Onion
Robert Klips

Uploaded on Jan 8, 2011

Nodding Wild Onion, Aliium cernuum (Liliaceae) is a native North American Wildflower that is common in meadows, prairies and roadsides. Bumblebees avidly forage on these blossoms on July 31, 2010 in Delaware County, Ohio, USA.




Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this plant.

This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.





Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © All rights reserved.