Ol’ Stinky’s Blooming

There aren’t many wildflowers to see at this time of year, but in a few spots the woods are bright with short, white balls-on-sticks.

I have a confession to make that some of my friends will find surprising: foodie Elizabeth does not love the taste of ramps, aka wild leek (Allium tricoccum, Liliaceae).

However, wildflower enthusiast Elizabeth loves the flowers. Or at least the look of them, because they do smell like onion.

Each flower has six tepals, six stamens, and a single style. Multiple flowers are arranged on each umbel, which tops a single leafless stalk, making the plants look like balls on sticks. They stand about a foot tall.

almost all the green in this picture is from ramp leaves



In the springtime, of course, ramps are all leaves, but the leaves die back before the flowering stalk emerges. They do light up the understory.


Ramps range from Tennessee and North Carolina in the south to Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec in the north, largely to the east of the Mississippi River, with some occurrences west of that (mostly in Minnesota). In Maryland they’re found in scattered locations in the piedmont and ridge and valley physiographic provinces. Look for them in moist, rich woodlands, where they get sun in early spring but deep shade in early summer. (And please don’t forage them, unless you find them on private land, have the landowner’s permission, and collect with sustainable practices – ie, don’t take the whole plant.)

Ramps are listed as special concern in Maine and Rhode Island, special concern commercially exploited in Tennessee, and noxious weed in Arkansas, which is interesting considering that neither USDA PLANTS Database or BONAP have records for ramps anywhere in that state.

A Whole Lot Going On Now


ramp; wild leek
Allium tricoccum


Thursday morning I was able to get out for a few hours of hiking along the Billy Goat C trail. Along the trail itself, just a few things were blooming: honewort (past its prime), white avens, ramps. Lots of stinging nettle. Down in the river, water willow was just starting to open, and along the canal there was some tall meadow rue.

I braved poison ivy and a lot of flood detritus to get out to my favorite peninsula, the one with a pond in the middle, and that’s where the wildflower show was:

  • nodding onion
  • American germander
  • common arrowhead
  • buttonbush
  • joe pye weed (buds)
  • common milkweed
  • swamp milkweed
  • seedbox
  • fleabane
  • fringed loosestrife
  • horse nettle
  • wild potato vine
  • water speedwell (new to me!)
  • trumpet creeper
  • white vervain
  • blue vervain



nodding onion
Allium cernuum


Also, I found another stand of blue false indigo, past bloom of course but with big seedpods. This is a good find that I’ll be reporting to the Maryland DNR, since it’s a listed species (S2/Threatened).

There were invasive aliens, of course, mostly common St. Johnswort and a mustard species. A small stand of plants with pretty purple spikes is probably purple loosestrife, a particularly aggressive alien. It was growing amid buttonbush and halberd-leaved rosemallow (not yet blooming) right at the pond’s edge.

There were two other species, but as they’re particular favorites and since I think I got some good pictures, I’ll save them for more detailed posts in the next few days.



Cephalanthus occidentalis