Allium sativum Woodwill 1793.jpg
Allium sativum[2]
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Allioideae
Tribe: Allieae
Genus: Allium
Type species
Allium sativum
Evolutionary lines

1–3: see text

  • Cepa Mill.
  • Moly Mill.
  • Porrum Mill.
  • Saturnia Maratti
  • Moenchia Medik. 1790, illegitimate homonym not Ehrh. 1783 nor Roth 1788 nor Wender. ex Steud. 1841
  • Ascalonicum P.Renault
  • Schoenoprasum Kunth
  • Ophioscorodon Wallr.
  • Geboscon Raf.
  • Codonoprasum Rchb.
  • Molium (G.Don) Haw.
  • Nectaroscordum Lindl.
  • Aglitheis Raf.
  • Endotis Raf.
  • Getuonis Raf.
  • Gynodon Raf.
  • Kalabotis Raf.
  • Kepa Tourn. ex Raf.
  • Kromon Raf.
  • Loncostemon Raf.
  • Maligia Raf.
  • PanstenumRaf.
  • Plexistena Raf.
  • Stelmesus Raf.
  • Stemodoxis Raf.
  • Praskoinon Raf.
  • Trigonea Parl.
  • Caloscordum Herb.
  • Berenice Salisb. 1866, illegitimate homonym not Tul. 1857
  • Briseis Salisb.
  • Butomissa Salisb.
  • Calliprena Salisb.
  • Camarilla Salisb.
  • Canidia Salisb.
  • Hexonychia Salisb.
  • Hylogeton Salisb.
  • Iulus Salisb.
  • Molyza Salisb.
  • Phyllodolon Salisb.
  • Raphione Salisb.
  • Schoenissa Salisb.
  • Xylorhiza Salisb. 1866, illegitimate homonym not Nutt. 1840
  • Anguinum Fourr.
  • Rhizirideum Fourr.
  • Scorodon Fourr.
  • Milula Prain
  • Validallium Small
Allium flavum (yellow) and Allium carinatum (purple)

Allium is a genus of monocotyledonous flowering plants that includes hundreds of species, including the cultivated onion, garlic, scallion, shallot, leek, and chives. The generic name Allium is the Latin word for garlic,[4][5] and the type species for the genus is Allium sativum which means "cultivated garlic".[6]

Carl Linnaeus first described the genus Allium in 1753. Some sources refer to Greek ἀλέω (aleo, to avoid) by reason of the smell of garlic.[7] Various Allium have been cultivated from the earliest times, and about a dozen species are economically important as crops, or garden vegetables, and an increasing number of species are important as ornamental plants.[7][8]

The decision to include a species in the genus Allium is taxonomically difficult, and species boundaries are unclear. Estimates of the number of species are as low as 260,[9] and as high as 979.[10]

Allium species occur in temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere, except for a few species occurring in Chile (such as A. juncifolium), Brazil (A. sellovianum), and tropical Africa (A. spathaceum). They vary in height between 5 cm and 150 cm. The flowers form an umbel at the top of a leafless stalk. The bulbs vary in size between species, from small (around 2–3 mm in diameter) to rather large (8–10 cm). Some species (such as Welsh onion A. fistulosum) develop thickened leaf-bases rather than forming bulbs as such.

Plants of the genus Allium produce chemical compounds, mostly derived from cysteine sulfoxides, that give them a characteristic onion, or garlic, taste and odor.[7] Many are used as food plants, though not all members of the genus are equally flavorful. In most cases, both bulb and leaves are edible. The cooking and consumption of parts of the plants is due to the large variety of textures, and flavours, which may be strong or weak, that they can impart to the dish they are used in. The characteristic Allium flavor depends on the sulfate content of the soil the plant grows in.[7] In the rare occurrence of sulfur-free growth conditions, all Allium species completely lose their usual pungency.

In the APG III classification system, Allium is placed in the family Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Allioideae (formerly the family Alliaceae).[11] In some of the older classification systems, Allium was placed in Liliaceae.[7][8][12][13][14] Molecular phylogenetic studies have shown this circumscription of Liliaceae is not monophyletic.

Allium is one of about fifty-seven genera of flowering plants with more than 500 species.[15] It is by far the largest genus in the Amaryllidaceae, and also in the Alliaceae in classification systems in which that family is recognized as separate.[9]

  1. ^ Cite error: The named reference Linnaeus was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  2. ^ "1793 illustration from William Woodville: "Medical botany", London, James Phillips, 1793, Vol. 3, Plate 168: Allium sativum (Garlic). Hand-coloured engraving". Archived from the original on 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
  3. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  4. ^ Quattrocchi 1999, vol. 1 p. 91.
  5. ^ Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 43
  6. ^ Allium In: Index Nominum Genericorum. In: Regnum Vegetabile (see External links below).
  7. ^ a b c d e Eric Block (2010). Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science. Royal Society of Chemistry. ISBN 978-0-85404-190-9.
  8. ^ a b Dilys Davies (1992). Alliums: The Ornamental Onions. Timber Press. ISBN 978-0-88192-241-7.
  9. ^ a b Knud Rahn. 1998. "Alliaceae" pages 70-78. In: Klaus Kubitzki (editor). The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants volume III. Springer-Verlag: Berlin;Heidelberg, Germany. ISBN 978-3-540-64060-8
  10. ^ The Plant List, for genus Allium
  11. ^ Chase, M.W.; Reveal, J.L. & Fay, M.F. (2009). "A subfamilial classification for the expanded asparagalean families Amaryllidaceae, Asparagaceae and Xanthorrhoeaceae". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 132–136. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00999.x.
  12. ^ James L. Brewster, "Onions and Other Alliums" (Wallingford: CABI Publishing, 2008)
  13. ^ Haim D. Rabinowitch, Leslie Currah, "Allium Crop Sciences: Recent Advances" (Wallingford: CABI Publishing, 2002)
  14. ^ Penny Woodward, "Garlic and Friends: The History, Growth and Use of Edible Alliums" (South Melbourne: Hyland House, 1996)
  15. ^ Frodin, David G. (2004). "History and concepts of big plant genera". Taxon. 53 (3): 753–776. doi:10.2307/4135449. JSTOR 4135449.

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