Putative Allium stellatum x nutans garden hybrid

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seed parent

Allium stellatum - light pink form    copyright  2000 Mark McDonough

possible pollen parent

Allium nutans mixed colors    copyright  2000 Mark McDonough

Allium stellatum - tall, early blooming type

This image shows the graceful habit of a tall, pale,  summer blooming form of the North American species, A. stellatum.   These are 2nd & 3rd generation seedlings from a white-flowered selection, originally from Canada.  Notice the characteristic sideways sprays of pale pink starry flowers.  Flower color in these seedlings runs from near white, light pink, and clear mid pink tones. This image is included to help illustrate the typical floral aspect of Allium stellatum.


Allium nutans

This image shows a number of color forms of the Siberian Allium nutans, included here to help illustrate the globular or spherical floral form of this species.  Notice the nodding bud, thus the name nutans. Allium nutans is closely related to the ubiquitous Allium senescens, and freely hybridizes with that European and Asian species.  In the hybrid plant shown below, the suspected parent is a tall, white flowered form of Allium nutans, which grows nearby in my garden.

Allium stellatum x nutans - illustrative view    copyright  2000 Mark McDonough Allium stellatum x nutans - view 4   copyright  2000 Mark McDonough

Allium stellatum x nutans hybrid

In this view, a tall, white-flowered form of A. nutans can be seen on the left (arrow on left).   Lots of A. stellatum fill the foreground, and on the right is the stellatum x nutans hybrid (arrow on right), floristically appearing quite intermediate between the two species.  The individual florets however look more like stellatum, right down to the crested ovaries.  The foliage too, is identical to normal stellatum, being narrow, dull green, and inconspicuous, unfortunately not inheriting the beautiful, wide, fleshy, twisting gray straps of nutans.


Allium stellatum x nutans hybrid

Among many tall wands of soft pink bloom heads of Allium stellatum, the one with the dense, fully spherical head (left) stands out like a beacon.  A few other seedlings on the right also show a high bud count, but they have the sideways hemispheres of bloom typical of stellatum.   The hybrid has over 200 florets packed into a ball-shaped head, the flower head looking very much indeed like A. nutans, which grows close by in my garden.   Other than the floral difference, the plant's other characteristics are identical to normal stellatum.

Allium stellatum x nutans - view 3   copyright  2000 Mark McDonough Allium 'Ferris Wheel' (stellatum x cernuum)  view 1   copyright  2000 Mark McDonough

Allium stellatum x nutans hybrid

Yet another view, with the dense inflorescence of the putative hybrid seen in the upper right, among the more open, informal heads of typical stellatum.


In the summer of 2000, several other spontaneous seedlings of Allium stellatum appeared, apparently hybridizing with Allium senescens growing close by.  In this case, it was the foliage that looked different, being broader than normal, slightly glaucous, and twisting much like senescens is known to.  The occurrence of these hybrids is exciting and offers promise for developing showy, late blooming garden plants.

Allium 'Ferris Wheel'  (stellatum x cernuum)

Plants that seem indistinguishable between cernuum and stellatum, may in fact be hybrids.  This plant was received as A. drummondii (a completely different, unrelated species). At first, it seemed obvious that this was yet another incarnation of the nodding onion, A. cernuum.  Upon closer inspection however, this showy, free flowering plant has much more in common with stellatum. It is my opinion this is most likely a stellatum x cernuum hybrid. 


The cultivar name 'Ferris Wheel" refers to the trademark sideways ferris-wheel-like heads of bloom one associates with A. stellatum.



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Questions or comments on this page?  Contact Mark McDonough at antennaria@aol.com.

Images and textual content copyright 2000 Mark McDonough

This page was last updated on 01/22/01