TREE ONION. WILD GARLIC. North America. There is some hesitation in referring the tree onion of the garden to this wild onion. Loudon refers to it as "the tree, or bulb-bearing, onion, syn. Egyptian onion, A. cepa, var. viviparium; the stem produces bulbs instead of flowers and when these bulbs are planted they produce underground onions of considerable size and, being much stronger flavored than those of any other variety, they go farther in cookery." Booth says, "the bulb-bearing tree onion was introduced into England from Canada in 1820 and is considered to be a vivaparous variety of the common onion, which it resembles in appearance. It differs in its flower-stems being surmounted by a cluster of small green bulbs instead of bearing flowers and seed." It is a peculiarity of A. canadense that it often bears a head of bulbs in the place of flowers; its flavor is very strong; it is found throughout northern United States and Canada. Mueller says its top bulbs are much sought for pickles of superior flavor. Brown says its roots are eaten by some Indians. In 1674, when Marquette and his party journeyed from Green Bay to the present site of Chicago, these onions formed almost the entire source of food. The lumbermen of Maine often used the plant in their broths for flavoring. On the East Branch of the Penobscot, these onions occur in abundance and are bulb-producing on their stalks. They grow in the clefts of ledges and even with the scant soil attain a foot in height. In the lack of definite information, it may be allowable to suggest that the tree onion may be a hybrid variety from this wild species, or possibly the wild species improved by cultivation. The name, Egyptian onion, is against this surmise, while, on the other hand, its apparent origination in Canada is in its favor, as is also the appearance of the growing plants. Sturtevant, Notes on edible plants, 1919.
- Loudon, J. C. Hort. 661. 1860.
- Booth, W.B. Treas. Bot. 1:40. 1870.
- Mueller, F. Sel. Pls. 28 B. 1891.
- Brown, R. Gard. Chron. 1320. 1868.
- Case Bot. Index 34. 1880.
MC. The tree onion is Allium proliferum.