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Useful Tropical Plants

Allium fistulosum

L.

Amaryllidaceae

+ Synonyms

Allium bouddae Debeaux

Allium kashgaricum Prokh.

Cepa fissilis Garsault

Cepa fistulosa (L.) Gray

Cepa ventricosa Moench

Kepa fistulosa (L.) Raf.

Phyllodolon fistulosum (L.) Salisb.

Porrum fistulosum (L.) Schur

Common Name: Welsh Onion

Allium fistulosum
Cultivated plant of Welsh Onion, grown in Europe
Photograph by: Eric Toensmeier
Creative Commons License
Allium fistulosum Allium fistulosum Allium fistulosum Allium fistulosum Allium fistulosum Allium fistulosum Allium fistulosum Allium fistulosum

General Information

Allium fistulosum is a usually evergreen, herbaceous, perennial plant producing 2 - 6 hollow, cylindrical leaves 25 - 40cm long and a flowering scape 30 - 50cm (occ to 100cm) tall from an underground bulb. The plant divides quite freely, forming a cluster of growth[
203
Title
Alliums. The Ornamental Onions.
Publication
 
Author
Davies. D.
Publisher
Batsford
Year
1992
ISBN
0-7134-7030-5
Description
Covers about 200 species of Alliums. A very short section on their uses, good details of their cultivation needs.
,
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].
The Japanese bunching onion, often called the welsh onion in Britain, is widely cultivated in eastern Asia from the cold temperate regions of Siberia to moderate elevations in the tropics of southeast Asia and commonly sold in shops and markets. A very common vegetable in Asia, where there are many different cultivars, it is usually grown more on a garden scale in Europe and America, mainly for its edible leaves which can be produced throughout the winter if the weather is not too severe[
206
Title
Oriental Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom J.
Publisher
John Murray
Year
1991
ISBN
0-7195-4781-4
Description
Well written and very informative.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Known Hazards

Although no individual reports regarding this species have been seen, there have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible[
76
Title
Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man.
Publication
 
Author
Cooper. M. and Johnson. A.
Publisher
HMSO
Year
1984
ISBN
0112425291
Description
Concentrates mainly on the effects of poisonous plants to livestock.
].

Botanical References

266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.

Range

E. Asia - possibly western China, though the original habitat is obscure.

Habitat

The plant has been cultivated for over 1,000 years, and is not known in the wild.

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *  *  *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitEvergreen Bulb
Height0.40 m
PollinatorsBees, Insects
Cultivation StatusCultivated

Cultivation Details

Allium fistulosum is a very cold-tolerant plant that originated in the temperate zone and is widely grown there. Plants will often retain their leaves even when covered in snow[
206
Title
Oriental Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom J.
Publisher
John Murray
Year
1991
ISBN
0-7195-4781-4
Description
Well written and very informative.
]. In the tropics, it can be grown successfully at elevations between 1,000 - 2000 metres. High temperatures encourage bulb formation, but flower formation and seed production are only possible where the bulbs are subjected to low temperatures. In the tropics, flower and seed formation will therefore only occur at higher elevations[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. The plant grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 12 - 25°c, but can tolerate 6 - 30°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 850 - 1,600mm, but tolerates 700 - 2,500mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
An easily grown plant[
203
Title
Alliums. The Ornamental Onions.
Publication
 
Author
Davies. D.
Publisher
Batsford
Year
1992
ISBN
0-7134-7030-5
Description
Covers about 200 species of Alliums. A very short section on their uses, good details of their cultivation needs.
], it prefers a sunny position in a light well-drained but moist soil[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
] but tolerates most soils[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
52
Title
Salads all the Year Round.
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom. J.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1980
ISBN
 
Description
A good and comprehensive guide to temperate salad plants, with full organic details of cultivation.
] including those that are damp and acid[
203
Title
Alliums. The Ornamental Onions.
Publication
 
Author
Davies. D.
Publisher
Batsford
Year
1992
ISBN
0-7134-7030-5
Description
Covers about 200 species of Alliums. A very short section on their uses, good details of their cultivation needs.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 to 7.5[
206
Title
Oriental Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom J.
Publisher
John Murray
Year
1991
ISBN
0-7195-4781-4
Description
Well written and very informative.
], but it tolerates a pH in the range 4.9 to 8.5.
Average yields of leaves may be 34-45 t/ha[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The oriental forms of this species, known as bunching onions, tend to be hardier and more robust than the welsh onion[
206
Title
Oriental Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom J.
Publisher
John Murray
Year
1991
ISBN
0-7195-4781-4
Description
Well written and very informative.
]. There are two basic forms, multi-stem types and single-stem types. The single-stem types divide less freely than the multi-stems[
206
Title
Oriental Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom J.
Publisher
John Murray
Year
1991
ISBN
0-7195-4781-4
Description
Well written and very informative.
].
The plants are often eaten by slugs[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
]. Most members of this genus are intolerant of competition from other growing plants[
203
Title
Alliums. The Ornamental Onions.
Publication
 
Author
Davies. D.
Publisher
Batsford
Year
1992
ISBN
0-7134-7030-5
Description
Covers about 200 species of Alliums. A very short section on their uses, good details of their cultivation needs.
].
The plant probably arose through cultivation from Allium altaicum[
203
Title
Alliums. The Ornamental Onions.
Publication
 
Author
Davies. D.
Publisher
Batsford
Year
1992
ISBN
0-7134-7030-5
Description
Covers about 200 species of Alliums. A very short section on their uses, good details of their cultivation needs.
].
Grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes[
18
Title
Companion Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B.
Publisher
Watkins
Year
1979
ISBN
-
Description
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.
,
20
Title
Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Publication
 
Author
Riotte. L.
Publisher
Garden Way, Vermont, USA.
Year
1978
ISBN
0-88266-064-0
Description
Fairly good.
,
54
Title
How to Enjoy your Weeds.
Publication
 
Author
Hatfield. A. W.
Publisher
Frederick Muller Ltd
Year
1977
ISBN
0-584-10141-4
Description
Interesting reading.
]. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other[
201
Title
A - Z of Companion Planting.
Publication
 
Author
Allardice.P.
Publisher
Cassell Publishers Ltd.
Year
1993
ISBN
0-304-34324-2
Description
A well produced and very readable book.
].
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
233
Title
Perennial Garden Plants
Publication
 
Author
Thomas. G. S.
Publisher
J. M. Dent & Sons, London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0 460 86048 8
Description
A concise guide to a wide range of perennials. Lots of cultivation guides, very little on plant uses.
].

Edible Uses

Bulb - raw or cooked[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
]. A strong onion flavour, it can be used in salads, as a cooked vegetable or as a flavouring in cooked foods[
22
Title
Alternative Foods.
Publication
 
Author
Sholto-Douglas. J.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
Not very comprehensive, it seems more or less like a copy of earlier writings with little added.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. The bulbs are rather small, usually 10 - 25mm in diameter though they can be up to 45mm[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
], and are sometimes used as spring onions[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
]. A nutritional analysis is available[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].

Leaves - raw or cooked[
2
Title
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Hedrick. U. P.
Publisher
Dover Publications
Year
1972
ISBN
0-486-20459-6
Description
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
]. They have a mild onion flavour[
183
Title
Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications
Year
1990
ISBN
0-9628087-0-9
Description
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
] and can be added to salads or cooked as a vegetable[
116
Title
Oriental Herbs and Vegetables, Vol 39 No. 2.
Publication
 
Author
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Publisher
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
A small booklet packed with information.
]. The leaves are often available all through the winter if the weather is not too severe[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. They contain about 1.4% protein, 0.3% fat, 4.6% carbohydrate, 0.8% ash, some vitamin B1 and moderate levels of vitamin C[
179
Title
Famine Foods listed in the Chiu-Huang Pen-ts'ao.
Publication
 
Author
Reid. B. E.
Publisher
Southern Materials Centre; Taipei
Year
1977
ISBN
-
Description
A translation of an ancient Chinese book on edible wild foods. Fascinating.
].

Flowers - raw. A pleasant onion flavour, but they are rather on the dry side[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Medicinal

The therapeutic qualities attributed to the welsh onion are many, especially in Chinese medicine. It is used to improve the functioning of internal organs and the metabolism, and to prolong life. It is further reported to improve eyesight, to aid digestion and perspiration, and to enhance recovery from common colds, headaches, wounds and festering sores[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].
The bulb contains an essential oil that is rich in sulphur compounds[
283
Title
Medicinal Plants in Vietnam
Publication
 
Author
Nguyen Van Dan & Doan Thi Nhu
Publisher
World Health Organisation
Year
1989
ISBN
92 9061 101 4
Description
An excellent book, giving information on over 200 plants, their medicinal compounds and applications.
]. It is antibacterial, antiseptic, diaphoretic, diuretic, galactagogue, stomachic, vermifuge and vulnerary[
176
Title
Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas.
Publication
 
Author
Yeung. Him-Che.
Publisher
Institute of Chinese Medicine, Los Angeles
Year
1985
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent Chinese herbal giving information on over 500 species. Rather technical and probably best suited to the more accomplished user of herbs.
,
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
]. It is used in the treatment of colds and abdominal coldness and fullness[
176
Title
Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas.
Publication
 
Author
Yeung. Him-Che.
Publisher
Institute of Chinese Medicine, Los Angeles
Year
1985
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent Chinese herbal giving information on over 500 species. Rather technical and probably best suited to the more accomplished user of herbs.
]. A tea made from the roots is a children's sedative[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
]. Use of the bulb in the diet impedes internal parasites[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].
Externally, the bulb can be made into a poultice to drain pus from sores, boils and abscesses[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
].

Other Uses

The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles[
20
Title
Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.
Publication
 
Author
Riotte. L.
Publisher
Garden Way, Vermont, USA.
Year
1978
ISBN
0-88266-064-0
Description
Fairly good.
].
The plants are said to reduce or prevent white ant infestation in gardens, and in China the diluted juice is used as a treatment against aphids[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
].

The welsh onion is related to the cultivated onion (Allium cepa) and could be of value in breeding programmes[
203
Title
Alliums. The Ornamental Onions.
Publication
 
Author
Davies. D.
Publisher
Batsford
Year
1992
ISBN
0-7134-7030-5
Description
Covers about 200 species of Alliums. A very short section on their uses, good details of their cultivation needs.
,
206
Title
Oriental Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom J.
Publisher
John Murray
Year
1991
ISBN
0-7195-4781-4
Description
Well written and very informative.
].

Propagation

Seed - sow in a containers. The seed germinates over a wide range of temperatures, it is faster at higher temperatures[
206
Title
Oriental Vegetables
Publication
 
Author
Larkcom J.
Publisher
John Murray
Year
1991
ISBN
0-7195-4781-4
Description
Well written and very informative.
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out when large enough.
Division of the plants is very easy and can be done at almost any time of the year though the spring is probably best. The divisions can be planted out straight into their permanent positions if required.

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