Allium cernuum variability

I'm always surprised by the variability of A. cernuum, particularly when grown from many sources, and
when intraspecific hybrids occur between forms of the species.  In the form shown below, the flower
head is very large, to about 3-1/2" across, with deeply colored florets on widely spaced pedicels of good
architectural form.  The pedicels tend to be thick and a dark gray-green color, adding to the effect.





In the image below we see a similar variant, but with lighter pink flowers, more strongly arching pedicels,
and darker, sooty dark gray pedicels creating a dramatic effect.




The form shown below is probably a hybrid, with what species I do not know, but notice that the stems
barely nod at all and at full anthesis, the head of florets stand upright.  In this particular form, the florets
fertilize and develop green seed capsules so quickly as to detract from the floral show.

Sometimes offered up as its own species, Allium "oxyphilum", it has been recognized that this eastern USA
onion is really just a white-flowered variant of Allium cernuum.  However it does distinguish itself as having the
most delicate nodding candelabras of tiny white bells on unusually thin pedicels, with graceful form.  The 
plant will hybridize readily with other forms of cernuum, creating mostly pink offspring, but often contributing
the graceful extra thin arching disposition to the inflorescence.  My plants are from a known collected source
corresponding to the type "species", but to distinguish the plant I've been calling it Allium cernuum 'Oxy White'.



Allium "Tidy Pink" - newly selected in 2007, but under observation for some years.  On the left there is a
good normally shaped form of Allium cernuum, but center stage is a very neat form with tiny compact clusters
about and inch and a quarter across, much smaller than normal.  The effect is charming.



Photos by Mark McDonough

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This page was last updated on 08/25/07