Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This native perennial plant produces basal leaves 4-9" long and 1½-3½" across on short petioles (usually 2-3 per bulb). The basal leaves are ovate-oval to ovate-elliptic, light to medium green, hairless, and smooth along the margins. Their petioles are reddish, hairless, and wrapped in a basal sheath below. These leaves develop during the spring and wither away by early summer. During early to mid-summer, there develops a naked flowering stalk about ½-1½' tall. This stalk is terete, glabrous, and reddish to pale green; at its base, there is a papery sheath. The stalk terminates in a single rounded umbel of flowers spanning 1-2" across; there are typically 20-40 flowers per umbel. At the base of this umbel, there is a pair of deciduous bracts. Each flower is about ¼" across, consisting of 6 white to translucent white tepals, a light green to pale yellow ovary, 6 stamens with pale yellow anthers, and a single white style. At the base of each flower, there is a slender pedicel that is white to greenish white. The blooming period occurs during the summer and lasts about 2 weeks. Both the flowers and foliage exude an onion-like odor. After the blooming period, the ovary of each flower matures into a 3-celled seed capsule; each cell contains a single globoid seed that becomes black at maturity. The root system consists of an ovoid bulb with fibrous roots at its base. Offsets often develop, producing vegetative colonies of plants. Cultivation
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Wild Leek occurs occasionally in central and northern Illinois, while in the southern section of  the state it is rare or absent (see Distribution Map). Habitats include mesic deciduous woodlands and wooded bluffs. The presence of this species is a sign that the original flora of a woodlands is still in intact. An introduced species, Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard), can shade out the basal leaves of Wild Leek during the spring, causing the latter to decline in abundance. Faunal Associations
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Allium tricoccum Aiton:
Canada (North America)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Bulbs 2–6, usually borne on short rhizome, ovoid-conic, 1.5–6 × 1.5–3 cm; outer coats enclosing 1 or more bulbs, brownish to grayish, reticulate, cells finely fibrous; inner coat white, obscurely cellular, cells irregularly arranged. Leaves ephemeral, usually absent at anthesis, 2–3, basal; blade solid, flat, elliptic to elliptic-lanceolate, (15–)20–30(–40) cm × 15–90 mm, tapering to long, slender petiole, margins entire. Scape persistent, solitary, flexuous distally, terete, 10–40 cm × 2–4 mm. Umbel persistent, erect, loose, (6–)30–50-flowered, obconic to ± hemispheric, bulbils unknown; spathe bracts persistent, 2, ± 3-veined, lanceolate to lance-ovate, ± equal, apex acute, beakless. Flowers campanulate, 4–7 mm; tepals erect, white to cream or yellowish, oblong to ovate, ± equal, not withering in fruit, margins entire, apex obtuse; stamens ± equaling tepals; anthers white to light yellow; pollen white; ovary crestless; style included, linear, shorter than stamens; stigma capitate, scarcely thickened, unlobed; pedicel 10–20 mm. Seed coat shining; cells smooth.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Wild Leek occurs occasionally in central and northern Illinois, while in the southern section of  the state it is rare or absent (see Distribution Map). Habitats include mesic deciduous woodlands and wooded bluffs. The presence of this species is a sign that the original flora of a woodlands is still in intact. An introduced species, Alliaria petiolata (Garlic Mustard), can shade out the basal leaves of Wild Leek during the spring, causing the latter to decline in abundance. Faunal Associations
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Wild Ramp in Illinois

Allium tricoccum (Wild Ramp)
(Bees suck nectar or collect pollen, while flies suck nectar or feed on pollen; all observations are from Graenicher)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus vagans sn; Megachilidae (Osmiini): Hoplitis producta sn

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Halictus confusus sn cp, Lasioglossum connexus sn cp, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus sn, Lasioglossum zephyrus sn cp; Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus affinis sn, Hylaeus modestus modestus sn

Flies
Syrphidae: Sphaerophoria contiqua, Toxomerus geminatus; Calliphoridae: Lucilia illustris

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Allium tricoccum

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Allium tricoccum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Wikipedia

Allium tricoccum

Allium tricoccum — also known as the ramp, spring onion, ramson, wild leek, wild garlic, and, in French, ail sauvage and ail des bois — is an early spring vegetable, a perennial wild onion. It has a a strong garlic-like odor and a pronounced onion flavor.[1] The plant has broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. Both the white lower leaf stalks and the broad green leaves are edible. The flower stalk appears after the leaves have died back, unlike the similar Allium ursinum, in which leaves and flowers can be seen at the same time.

Ramps grow in groups strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil. They are found across North America, from the U.S. state of South Carolina to Canada. They are popular in the cuisines of the rural upland South and in the Canadian province of Quebec when they emerge in the springtime. Ramps have a growing popularity in upscale restaurants throughout North America.

Contents

History and folklore

A thick growth of ramps near Lake Michigan in Illinois in the 17th century gave the city of Chicago its name, after the area was described by 17th-century explorer Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, and explained by his comrade, the naturalist and diarist Henri Joutel.[1] The plant called Chicagou in the language of native tribes was once thought to be Allium cernuum, the nodding wild onion, but research in the early 1990s showed the correct plant was the ramp.[1][2]

The ramp has strong associations with the folklore of the central Appalachian Mountains. Fascination and humor have fixated on the plant's extreme pungency. Jim and Bronson Comstock founded The West Virginia Hillbilly, a weekly humor and heritage newspaper, in 1957, and ramps were a frequent topic. For one issue, Jim Comstock introduced ramp juice into the printer's ink, invoking the ire of the U.S. Postmaster General.[3]

The mountain folk of Appalachia have long celebrated spring with the arrival of the ramp, believing it to have great power as a tonic to ward off many ailments of winter. Indeed, ramp's vitamin and mineral content did bolster the health of people who went without many green vegetables during the winter.[4]

A ramp bath was featured in the 1974 film Where the Lilies Bloom about life in North Carolina.

Culinary uses

Bulb of the wild leek

The flavor, a combination of onions and strong garlic,[5][6][7] or as food writer Jane Snow once described it, "like fried green onions with a dash of funky feet,"[8] is adaptable to almost any food style.

In central Appalachia, ramps are most commonly fried with potatoes in bacon fat or scrambled with eggs and served with bacon, pinto beans and cornbread. Ramps can also be pickled or used in soups and other foods in place of onions and garlic.

Ramp festivals

  • The community of Richwood, West Virginia, holds the annual "Feast of the Ramson" in April. Sponsored by the National Ramp Association, the "Ramp Fest" (as it is locally known) brings thousands of ramp aficionados from considerable distances to sample foods featuring the plant. During the ramp season (late winter through early spring), restaurants in the town serve a wide variety of foods containing ramps.[9]
  • The city of Elkins, West Virginia, hosts the "Ramps and Rails Festival" during the last weekend in April of each year. This festival features a cook-off and ramp-eating contests, and is attended by several hundred people each year.
  • The community of Flag Pond, Tennessee, hosts its annual Ramp Festival on the second Saturday each May. The festival features a wide variety of ramp-inspired foods, and includes music from an assortment of Appalachian groups. Hundreds of people attend the festival each year. Flag Pond is a community in East Tennessee, off I-26, near the state's border with North Carolina (less than half an hour from Asheville, TN).[11]
  • On the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania near Interstate 79 is Mason Dixon Park, which hosts the annual "Mason-Dixon Ramp Festival", typically on the third weekend in April. This festival is unique in having a "ramp rally", where ramp lovers pulling Serro Scotty campers gather to celebrate ramps and these famous 1950s RVs which were built in this area.
  • In Bradford, Pennsylvania, on the first Saturday in May, an annual event called "Stinkfest" is held. Local food vendors, providing Chinese, German, Italian, and traditional American cuisine, offer their dishes with ramps included. Highlights include the dip tasting contest, the outhouse races (where teams from local business build rolling outhouses and power them down the main thoroughfare), and appearances by local musical groups.

Conservation issues

In Canada, ramps are considered rare delicacies. Since the growth of ramps is not as widespread as in Appalachia and because of destructive human practices, ramps are a threatened species in Quebec.

Growing in its natural woodland environment.

Allium tricoccum is a protected species under Quebec legislation. A person may have ramps in his or her possession outside the plant's natural environment, or may harvest it for the purposes of personal consumption in an annual quantity not exceeding 200 grams of any of its parts or a maximum of 50 bulbs or 50 plants, provided that those activities do not take place in a park within the meaning of the National Parks Act. The protected status also prohibits any commercial transactions of ramps; this prevents restaurants from serving ramps as is done in the United States. Failure to comply with these laws is punishable by a fine.[13] However, the law does not always stop poachers, who find a ready market across the border in Ontario (especially in the Ottawa area), where ramps may be legally harvested and sold.[14]

Ramps are considered a species of "special concern" for conservation in Maine, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.[15] They are also considered "commercially exploited" in Tennessee. Ramp festivals may encourage harvest in unsustainable quantities.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Zeldes, Leah A. (2010-04-05). "Ramping up: Chicago by any other name would smell as sweet". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc.. http://www.diningchicago.com/blog/2010/04/05/ramping-up-chicago-by-any-other-name-would-smell-as-sweet/. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  2. ^ Swenson, John F. (Winter 1991). "Chicago: Meaning of the Name and Location of Pre-1800 European Settlements". Early Chicago. http://www.earlychicago.com/essays.php?essay=1. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  3. ^ "Ramps in the Ink" [Interview of Comstock], Goldenseal, Vol. 20 (Winter 1994):23. Comstock had been inspired by the scratch-and-sniff advertising for perfume and coffee in several local papers. The issue in question announced the Richwood Ramp Supper by lacing the printer's ink for the spring issue with ramp juice. According to Comstock, "We got a reprimand from the Postmaster General.... And we are probably the only paper in the United States that's under oath to the federal government not to smell bad".
  4. ^ Jeanine M. Davis and Jacqulyn Greenfield. "Cultivating Ramps: Wild Leeks of Appalachia". Purdue University. http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-449.html. Retrieved May 6, 2011. 
  5. ^ Eric Block, "Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science" (Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2010)
  6. ^ Dilys Davies, "Alliums: The Ornamental Onions" (Portland: Timber Press, 1992)
  7. ^ Penny Woodward, "Garlic and Friends: The History, Growth and Use of Edible Alliums" (South Melbourne: Hyland House, 1996)
  8. ^ Snow, Jane (April 21, 2004). "Hankering For Ramps". The Akron Beacon Journal. 
  9. ^ Info on Feast of the Ramson and history of Ramps
  10. ^ Cosby Ramp Festival
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Whitetop Mountain Ramp Festival
  13. ^ Éditeur officiel du Québec, "Regulation respecting threatened or vulnerable plant species and their habitats", Gazette officielle, April 25, 2007.
  14. ^ Globe and Mail, "Garlic lovers answer the call of the wild", 21 May 2007
  15. ^ NRCS: USDA Plants Profile and map: A. tricoccum

Other sources

  • Block, E. (2010). Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry. ISBN 978-0-85404-190-9. 
  • Davies, D. (1992). Alliums: The Ornamental Onions. (Portland: Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-241-2. 
  • Woodward, P. (1996). Garlic and Friends: The History, Growth and Use of Edible Alliums. (South Melbourne: Hyland House. ISBN 1-875657-62-2. 
  • Core, Earl Lemley (1945), “Ramps“, Castanea, 10:110-112.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Kartesz 1994 and 1999 exclude Allium burdickii, sometimes treated as a subspecies of A. tricoccum (as in FNA 2002). Allium tuberosum is listed as a synonym of A. tricoccum by Morton & Venn (1990), stating that the Ontario report needs confirmation. Kartesz 1999 and FNA 2002 treat A. tuberosum as a distinct exotic. This species is the "wild ramps" of Appalachian folklore.

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