Friday, April 16, 2010

Nodding Wild Onion

This Nodding Wild Onion, Allium cernuum, hasn’t been incarcerated because of bad behavior; it’s simply being held in protective custody. It seems that there are any number of creatures ready to make a meal of this plant and I have reasons for wanting it left alone. It’s not considered a rare plant, but the six plants in this pen represent one-third of the entire Blue Jay Barrens population.

Nodding Wild Onion is associated with prairies and sunny, open spaces. About eight years ago I found 18 plants growing in this heavily shaded area. I figured that seeds had washed down from the prairies on top of the hill. I spent four years watching these plants and searching for other plants growing in more suitable areas. I found no others and discovered that those growing in the shade were not producing flowers. One of my goals is to increase the populations of endangered and threatened species at Blue Jay Barrens, but I am also trying to increase the numbers of normally common native species that exhibit low population numbers.

One of my management rules forbids the introduction of plants or seeds from any source other than this property. That means that the only way I could increase the number of Nodding Wild Onions was to get those 18 plants to start reproducing. It was impractical to cut all the big trees in order to bring light to the plants, so I dug six plants and moved them to my prairie garden in front of the house.

The onions weren’t caged at first. The first year in the garden, all of the plants developed large flower heads and I was congratulating myself on the success of my efforts. Then, the flowers and half the plant leaves were eaten. The second year, I put a chicken wire cage around the plants and one day found the cage knocked over and the plants eaten into the ground. I replaced the chicken wire cage with a more substantial cage and found several weeks later that a mole had tunneled beneath all the plants, leaving them dry and withered. Success seemed to be slipping farther away.

This year, year number three, has the plants protected by an even stronger cage with vertical wires that project about six inches into the soil. I’m not even thinking about getting flowers, I just hope the plants can grow unmolested for the entire season. Well, at least the plants are still there and that means I still have a chance of success.


  1. Sorry to hear about the bad luck your having with the wild onions plant!! Moles are real pest I have tryed all kinds of things to no avail !! I just loved your little play on words;) I busted out laughing!!

  2. grammie g - If I had a prize to give, you would win it. Most people don't notice my puns and I have to bribe my family to give me a chuckle.

  3. Watch out for that Grammie G, I heard she was voted for class clown in high school. :)