Overview

Brief Summary

Allium tuberosum, garlic- or Chinese chives, is a monocot perennial in the onion genus. It ranges over east Asia from Mongolia in north to Phillipines in south, and Japan in east to Thailand in west, but because it is naturalizes easily following escape from cultivation, the center of origin is not clear (Brewster 1994).

Garlic chives grow in dense clumps formed of basal rosettes of 2–8 narrow leaves, up to 1 cm wide and 20 cm tall; the leaves are solid (rather than hollow, as in the related chives, A schoenoprasum) and flattened (Hilty 2011). The flowering stems (scapes) are also solid and sharply angled. The plant forms small or elongated bulbs attached by short rhizomes (FNA 2011, Hilty 2011). The fragrant, star-shaped flowers grow in open umbels, up to 5 cm across, which bloom in the summer or early fall, later than many other Allium species. The flowers do not produce bulbils or aerial bulblets, but instead produce small capsules with seeds. Garlic chives are often grown as ornamentals for the lovely and fragrant flowers, which attract bees, butterflies, and skippers (Hilty 2011).

The leaves of garlic chives are used as a culinary herb, similar to chives but with a more pronounced garlic flavor. Young flowers, which have a similar flavor, are also edible and are often used in salads. The seeds can also be eaten. Garlic chives produce sulfur compounds (including methyl sulfides and disulfides) similar to those found in garlic, but in much smaller amounts. They are considered to have similar medicinal properties (antifungal, antimicrobial, anticancer, improving circulation, etc.), but are not as widely used due to the lower amounts.

Garlic chives have been cultivated in China for 3,000 years and are commercially important throughout east Asia (Brewster 1994). Chive seed is described as medicinal in the “Ben Cao Gang Mu” by Li Shi Zhen, a famous traditional Chinese Materia Medica written during the late 16th century (Ming dynasty), with uses including combating lumbago and slowing frequent micturition. Extracts of Chinese chive seed are marketed today for its “anti-fatigue, anti-aging, and immune boosting properties” and as an aphrodisiac (cf. Oryza 2011).

Garlic chives spread readily by seed or vegetative offsets, and escapes easily from cultivation. Naturalized populations have been documented in parts of the U.S.: Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin (USDA Plants 2011); Illinois (Hilty 2011): and Michigan (Michigan Flora Online 2011). It is also reported to be established in New England (FNA 2011). However, it is not as widely invasive as the related species, A. vineale, crow garlic, or A. canadense, wild garlic (Hilty 2011).

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Comprehensive Description

Comments

Garlic Chives is often grown in gardens because of its attractive flowers and the culinary properties of the leaves. This plant is fairly easy to identify because it blooms later than other native or naturalized Allium spp., usually in late summer or early fall. The basal leaves of Garlic Chives resemble those of the native Allium cernuum (Nodding Onion), but the latter species has umbels that hang downward and it blooms during mid-summer. The flowering umbels of Garlic Chives resemble those of the native Allium stellatum (Cliff Onion), but the latter has basal leaves that are more narrow and upright. Other Allium spp. differ from Garlic Chives because they bloom earlier in the year, or they produce aerial bulbets, or they have basal leaves that are round and hollow in cross-section.
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Description

This introduced perennial plant consists of a rosette of 2-8 basal leaves and a single flowering stalk. The glabrous basal leaves are up to 12" long and ¼" across; they are linear with parallel veins, flattened and solid in cross-section, rather than round and hollow. The basal leaves are rather floppy and often curve downward near the middle, rather than remaining erect. They are green or greyish green, but turn yellow and wither away after the flowers bloom. The flowering stalk is up to 18" long and stiffly erect; it is round or terete and solid in cross-section. This stalk is devoid of cauline leaves and terminates in an umbel of 15-40 flowers that spans about 2" across. Each flower is about ¼" across and consists of 6 white tepals, 6 stamens with conspicuous anthers, and a single slender style. Each tepal may have a line along the middle of its outer/lower surface that is light green, light purple, or light brown. The white filaments of the stamens are narrowly triangular as they become more narrow at their tips where the anthers occur. Each flower has a slender pedicel up to 1" long. At the base of the umbel, there are often 1-3 membranous bracts that originally enclosed the buds of the flowers.  The blooming period occurs from late summer to early fall and lasts about 1 month. The flowers are fragrant. Each flower is replaced by a green seed capsule that is 3-celled and has 3 rounded lobes. Each capsule contains several seeds that are small, black, and shiny. Unlike some Allium spp., no aerial bulbets are produced. The root system consists of an elongated bulb with fibrous roots at the bottom. This plant reproduces by its seeds and vegetative offsets. It often forms clumps of plants.
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Distribution

Native in SW Shanxi (Yongji Xian); naturalized S China [tropical Asia].
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Distribution: Himalayas in India and Pakistan to China and Japan.
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Himalaya, Assam, China.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Bulb cylindrical, 4-6 cm long, light brown, erect; outer coat reticulate fibrous. Leaves 4-6(-8), linear, 1-4 mm broad, not fistular, shorter than the scape. Umbels dense flowered. Pedicels filiform, 1-1.5 cm long. Tepals elliptic, white to pink, c. 6 mm long, apex acute to acuminate. Filaments shorter than the tepals, entire, inner broader, narrowly triangular.
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Elevation Range

2300-2600 m
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Description

Bulbs clustered, cylindric; tunic dull yellow to yellowish brown, reticulate to subreticulate. Leaves linear, shorter than scape, 1.5--8 mm wide, flat, solid, margin smooth. Scape 25--60 cm, terete, usually 2-angled, covered with leaf sheaths only at base. Spathe 2- or 3-valved, persistent. Umbel hemispheric to subglobose, laxly many flowered. Pedicels subequal, 2--4 × as long as perianth, bracteolate and several covered with a common bract at base. Perianth white; segments usually with green or yellowish green midvein; outer ones oblong-ovate to oblong-lanceolate, 4--7(--8) × 1.8--3 mm; inner ones oblong-obovate, 4--7(--8) × 2.1--3.5 mm. Filaments narrowly triangular, equal, 2/3--4/5 as long as perianth segments, connate at base and adnate to perianth segments; inner ones slightly wider than outer at base. Ovary obconical-globose, minutely tuberculate, without concave nectaries at base. Fl. and fr. Jul--Sep. 2 n = 16*, 24*, 32*.
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Description

Bulbs 1–3, borne on stout, ± horizontal rhizome, elongate, cylindric or conic, 0.5–1.5 × 0.7–2 cm; outer coats enclosing 1 or more bulbs, brown, reticulate, cells ± fine-meshed, open, fibrous; inner coats white, cells closely parallel, elongate. Leaves withering from tip by anthesis, 2–5, sheathing scape to ± soil level; blade solid, flat, carinate abaxially, 20–40 cm × 2–6 mm, margins entire. Scape persistent, solitary, erect, terete, 30–50 cm × 1–3 mm. Umbel persistent, erect, loose, 20–50-flowered, hemispheric-globose, bulbils unknown; spathe bracts persistent, 1–3, 3–7-veined, lance-ovate, shorter than pedicel, apex acuminate. Flowers substellate, 4–9 mm; tepals spreading, white with green or brownish midveins, lanceolate to elliptic, ± equal, withering and exposing capsule, margins entire, apex obtuse or acute; stamens included; anthers purple; pollen white; ovary crestless; style linear, ± equaling stamens; stigma capitate, unlobed; pedicel 10–30 mm. Seed coat shining; cells smooth, irregularly shaped, with ± sinuous walls.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Allium argyi H. Léveillé; A. chinense Maximowicz (1859), not G. Don (1827); A. clarkei J. D. Hooker; A. roxburghii Kunth; A. sulvia Buchanan-Hamilton ex D. Don; A. tuberosum Roxburgh (1832); A. uliginosum G. Don (1827), not Ledebour (1830); A. yesoense Nakai.
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Ecology

Habitat

Among shrubs, also widely cultivated as a vegetable; 1000--1100 m.
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Habitat & Distribution

Flowering Jul--Aug. Roadsides and other disturbed ground; introduced; Iowa, Nebr., Wis.; se Asia.
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Associations

Faunal Associations

The nectar of the flowers attracts bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and skippers. Some of the bees probably collect pollen as well. The foliage has a garlic scent, which is repugnant to many mammalian herbivores. However, young leaves are edible to humans in limited amounts. Photographic Location
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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Flower/Fruit

Fl. Per.: July-August.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Allium tuberosum

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 tuberosum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full or partial sun, moist to dry conditions, and a rich loamy soil. This plant can spread aggressively by either its seeds or vegetative offsets. Clumps of plants are easily divided and the divided clumps can be planted in new locations. This plant is winter hardy in all areas of Illinois. Range & Habitat
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Wikipedia

Garlic chives

Garlic chives (Chinese: ; pinyin: jiǔcài, also 韮菜) are also known as Chinese chives, Chinese leek, ku chai, jiu cai, Oriental garlic chives or, Kucai in Malay / Bahasa Indonesia, in Japanese, nira (kanji: ; hiragana: にら; katakana: ニラ); in Kapampangan it is known as Kuse/Cu-se; in Korea known as buchu (부추), sol (솔), or jeongguji (정구지) or in Vietnamese, hẹ ([hɛ̂ˀ];chu Nom: Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Notes

Comments

Allium tuberosum is generally regarded as a cultivated species with a tetraploid chromosome number (2 n = 32), although a wild population was recently discovered in Shanxi Province with a diploid number (2 n = 16; Yang et al., Acta Phytotax. Sin. 36: 36--46. 1998). This species has leaves solid and perianth segments usually with a green or yellowish green midvein, whereas its close wild relative, A. ramosum, differs in having leaves fistulose and perianth segments with a pale red midvein. One of us (Xu) agrees with Stearn (Herbertia 11: 238. 1946) that the name A. tataricum Linnaeus f. (Suppl. Pl. 196. 1782) should be regarded as a synonym of A. ramosum. On the other hand, Kamelin regards A. tataricum as a synonym of A. tuberosum over which name it would have priority. He bases his opinion on two specimens (LE), labeled as A. tataricum and made from plants cultivated during the 1790s in the St. Petersburg Botanical Garden, and on his belief that only A. tuberosum never A. ramosum, has been cultivated. However, Kamelin has observed that these two specimens have fistulose leaves, which suggests that they are A. ramosum, unless this character is not diagnostic for the two species. Xu has not seen the specimens but notes that they could be cultivated A. ramosum because, as noted by Stearn (loc. cit.: 229), A. ramosum was already in cultivation in Europe by 1750. Therefore, A. tataricum is here treated as a synonym of A. ramosum, based on Xu’s opinion. The nomenclature of the two species remains unstable because, although the type of A. tuberosum (B) supports the current application of that name, no type has yet been designated for either A. ramosum or A. tataricum. Further studies are required in order to resolve the classification.
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Comments

Allium tuberosum is cultivated in China, Siberia, and North America, and is reported to be established in New England. It may escape anywhere the species is cultivated.
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