Crow Garlic

Crow Garlic

Yet another plant that when you learn to identify it, you’ll see that you’ve been missing it everywhere.


Native to Europe, north-western Africa and the Middle East. The species was introduced in Australia and North America, where it has become a noxious weed. Fields and roadsides in Britain, often a serious weed of pastures.

Crow garlic is resistant to herbicides, which cannot cling well to the vertical, smooth and waxy structure of its leaves.


A perennial, bulb-forming species of wild onion. All parts of the plant have a strong garlic odour.

Identifying Features

  • Leaves – The leaves are slender hollow tubes, 15–60 cm long and 2–4 mm thick, waxy texture, with a groove along the side of the leaf facing the stem.
  • Flowers – The inflorescence is a tight umbel surrounded by a membranous bract in bud which withers when the flowers open. Each individual flower is stalked and has a pinkish-green perianth 2.5 to 4.5 mm long. There are six tepals, six stamens and a pistil formed from three fused carpels. Mixed with the flowers are several yellowish-brown bulbils.
  • Fruit – The fruit is a capsule but the seeds seldom set and propagation usually takes place when the bulbils are knocked off and grow into new plants. Plants with no flowers, only bulbils, are sometimes distinguished as the variety Allium vineale var. compactum, but this character is probably not taxonomically significant.
  • Bulb – The underground bulb is 1–2 cm diameter, with a fibrous outer layer.




While Allium vineale has been suggested as a substitute for garlic, there is some difference of opinion as to whether there is an unpleasant aftertaste compared to that of common garlic (A. sativum). Personally, I haven’t experienced this unpleasant aftertaste and I use the leaves and bulbs regularly.

Apparently, it imparts a garlic-like flavour and odour on dairy and beef products when grazed by livestock. It is considered a pestilential invasive weed, as grain products may become tainted with a garlic odour or flavour in the presence of aerial bulblets at the time of harvest.

Leaves – raw or cooked, used as a garlic substitute. The leaves are available from late autumn until the following summer, when used sparingly they make a nice addition to the salad bowl.

Bulb – used as a flavouring. Rather small, with a very strong flavour and odour. The bulbs are 10 – 20mm in diameter.

Bulbils – raw or cooked. Rather small and fiddly, they have a strong garlic-like flavour.


A tincture is used to prevent worms and colic in children, and also as a remedy for croup. The raw root can be eaten to reduce blood pressure and also to ease shortness of breath. Although no other specific mention of medicinal uses has been seen for this species, members of this genus are in general very healthy additions to the diet. They contain sulphur compounds (which give them their onion flavour) and when added to the diet on a regular basis they help reduce blood cholesterol levels, act as a tonic to the digestive system and also tonify the circulatory system3.

Other uses

The juice has been shown to be an effective insect repellent and insecticide.

Known Hazards

There have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible13.


The leaves are available from late autumn until the following summer.

Potential lookalikes

Often confused with wild grasses when not in flower, but rubbing the leaves gives the distinctive garlic smell.
A poisonous lookalike is Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum). Poisonous to humans and animals so please make sure you properly identify your Garlic before consuming.

Mythology and Symbolism

It is an old country notion that if crows eat Crow Garlic, it stupefies them3.


  1. Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium_vineale.
  2. PFAF – https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?LatinName=Allium+vineale
  3. Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin 1984 ISBN 0-14-046-440-9.
  4. Izol E, Temel H, Yilmaz MA, et al. A detailed chemical and biological investigation of twelve Allium species from Eastern Anatolia with chemometric studies [published online ahead of print, 2020 Nov 14]. Chem Biodivers. 2020;10.1002/cbdv.202000560. doi:10.1002/cbdv.202000560.
  5. Satyal P, Craft JD, Dosoky NS, Setzer WN. The Chemical Compositions of the Volatile Oils of Garlic (Allium sativum) and Wild Garlic (Allium vineale). Foods. 2017;6(8):63. Published 2017 Aug 5. doi:10.3390/foods6080063.
  6. Ledezma E., Apitz-Castro R. Ajoene, el principal compuesto activo derivado del ajo (Allium sativum), un nuevo agente antifúngico. Rev. Iberoam. Micol. 2006;23:75–80. doi: 10.1016/S1130-1406(06)70017-1.
  7. Mnayer D., Fabiano-Tixier A.S., Petitcolas E., Hamieh T., Nehme N., Ferrant C., Fernandez X., Chemat F. Chemical composition, antibacterial and antioxidant activities of six essentials oils from the Alliaceae family. Molecules. 2014;19:20034–20053. doi: 10.3390/molecules191220034.
  8. Ayaz E., Turel I., Gul A., Yilmaz O. Evaluation of the anthelmentic activity of garlic (Allium sativum) in mice naturally infected with Aspiculuris tetraptera. Recent Pat. Antiinfect. Drug Discov. 2008;3:149–152. doi: 10.2174/157489108784746605.
  9. Romeilah R.M., Fayed S.A., Mahmoud G.I. Chemical compositions, antiviral and antioxidant activities of seven essential oils. J. Appl. Sci. Res. 2010;6:50–62.
  10. Jain RC, Vyas CR, Mahatma OP. Hypoglycaemic action of onion and garlic. Lancet. 1973 Dec 29; 2(7844):1491.
  11. Bordia A., Bansal H.C., Arora S.K., Singh S.V. Effect of the essential oils of garlic and onion on alimentary hyperlipemia. Atherosclerosis. 1975;21:15–20. doi: 10.1016/0021-9150(75)90091-X.
  12. Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO 1984 ISBN 0112425291

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