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Alliaceae: The Onion Family

The Alliaceae is the family of onions and related plants. Members of the order Asparagales, the alliums have bulbs. Their closest relatives are the New World plants in the family Themidaceae, as well as the Hyacinthaceae and the Amaryllidaceae. The flowers are bisexual and regular; they are characteristically in an umbel at the top of a stalk. The leaves are all produced from the base of the plant.

Besides the familiar onions of the garden, other members of this family include many wild species of the genus Allium.

The onion family is represented on the African continent by the ornamental genus Tulbaghia. The genus Ipheion is familiar in western Europe, and should be tried more in North America in zones 7 and 8, and even in zones 5 and 6.

The older usage of the family Liliaceae was an all-inclusive collection of plants that are considered in most recent classifications to belong to many families in at least two orders, Asparagales and Liliales. The family Alliaceae is now considered to be part of the Asparagales.

In the future, additional information about alliums will appear in these pages. In the meantime, we welcome your suggestions for additions and improvements to this project.

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James E. Shields,
Last revised: 07 January 2010.
© Copyright 2010 by James E. Shields. All rights reserved.