Perennial herb with two to six bulbs flowering stem 12 - 40 cm tall Leaves: two or three, basal, stalked, 15 - 20 cm long, 2 - 9 cm wide, flat, lance-shaped to elliptical, dying back before flowering time. Leafstalks long, narrow, and reddish. Inflorescence: an upright, more or less dome-shaped umbel of twelve to fifty flowers raised on a single narrow stalk and subtended by two, 2 - 3 cm long deciduous bracts. Flowers: white to cream-colored, 4 - 7 mm long, bell-shaped, with six tepals that remain even in fruit. Fruit: a three-lobed capsule. Bulbs: up to 6 cm tall, somewhat oval, and encased in a brownish or gray netlike coating.
Similar species: The leaves of Allium tricoccum are gone by flowering time, which distinguishes this species from other Allium in the Chicago Region. Also, the leaves are typically wider (over 1.5 cm). The variety burdickii differs by having much shorter leafstalks that are not reddish and leaves that are less wide.
Flowering: mid-June to mid-August
Habitat and ecology: Common in mesic woods, especially in the eastern part of the Chicago Region.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: The name for the city of Chicago is derived from the Native American Miami-Illinois word "chicagoua," which means "striped skunk" and was also used in reference to the smelly wild leek, Allium tricoccum. The Miami-Illinois commonly named rivers after conspicuous plants in a watershed. "Chicagoua" was their name for the Chicago River. This name was later adopted for the town located at the mouth of the river, Chicago, which was incorporated in 1833.
Etymology: Allium comes from the Latin word for garlic. Tricoccum is a combination of tri meaning three, and coccum meaning berry, which refers to the three-lobed fruit.
Bulb ovoid-conic, its coats finely fibrous-reticulate; lvs flat, lance-elliptic, (1-)1.5-3+ cm, withering before anthesis; umbel erect, subtended by 2 ovate deciduous bracts; tep ovate to oblong-obovate, white, 4-7 mm, obtuse, about equaling the stamens; epipetalous filaments widened below; fr depressed, deeply 3-lobed, each valve often gibbous on the back below the middle; 2n=16. Rich woods; N.S. and s. Que. to Md. and in the mts. to n. Ga. and n. Ala., w. to e. N.D., s. S.D., and Mo. Two well marked vars.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Diagnostic Traits: Leaves flat, 1 cm wide or more, petiolate, withering before plants flower.
This taxon can be divided into two species or, as treated here, two well-defined varieties. Variety burdickii has narrower leaves (<2.5 cm wide), pale petioles, leaf sheaths, and stems. Variety tricoccum leaves reach to over 4 cm wide and the plant is reddish at its base. Flowering times also differ: burdickii peaks in June while tricoccum peaks in July.