Native Plant of the Week: Nodding Onion ~ Allium cernuum

Nodding Onion ~ Allium cernuum

With our ongoing drought in many parts of the continent, it's a good idea to investigate what native plants are thriving in this heat. Nodding Onion is one of these natives, loving hot, sunny locations in dry sandy soils. It is also apparently tolerant of loam or clay soils.

Very similar to Prairie Onion (Allium stellatum), Nodding Onion has drooping umbel flowerheads comprised of 6 parted light pink flowers. Flower stalk heights range from 12 -24 inches.

The basal leaves are linear and grass-like in appearance, and often go unnoticed because the foliage of neighboring plants will hide the onion leaves.

The leaves have an onion odor, not as strong as chives but quite apparent. Nodding onion works really well intermixed with shorter prairie natives at the edge of a planting. It looks fantastic planted with Wild Petunia, Side Oats Grama and Spotted Beebalm all of which flower at the same time.

The primary visitor to the tiny flowers are small Halictid bees. Look for them clinging to the underside of the nodding flowers.

The occasional Leafcutter Bee will also visit the flowers of the Nodding Onion in our yard.

And where the bees visit, you will often find Tumbling Flower Beetles feeding on pollen.
I also spotted the Weevil species this morning. I'm going to investigate later if the weevil is feeding on any part of the Nodding Onion plant.

Nodding Onion is native to many parts of North America, see map below for range.

Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP).
North American Plant Atlas. Chapel Hill, N.C.