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Tapertip Onion

Scientific Name:
Allium acuminatum
Family:
Native Name(s):
  1. Northern Paiute: gü'ka' (Kelly 1932); küga (Couture et al. 1986)
Description:

Plant

Allium acuminatum is a perennial herb that grows up to 30 cm tall from a bulb. The bulbs usually produce 2 to 3 basal leaves that are linear and cylindric and are present until flowering, after which they wither and the stem becomes leafless. The flower is an umbel of 7 to 25 pink or purple flowers. The plant has a strong onion odor, and is mildly toxic if eaten in large quantities. It blooms from May to July.

Identification tips

Allium acuminatum is distinguished by its bright purple inflorescences. The flowers are erect with reflexed to spreading tips.

Starch granules

Starch granules from this species are sparse and were not observed in seeds or bulbs.

Habitat:

This species grows at elevations from 100 to 1500 m in open, often rocky slopes among brush and pines.

Distribution:

Allium acuminatum is widely distributed throughout western North America and British Columbia.

Ethnography:

The bulbs of Allium acuminatum are gathered in the spring and can be eaten raw or roasted and are typically consumed fresh. The seeds can also be roasted and consumed.

As food
Northern Paiute: "The bulbs of this onion were sometimes roasted, but I was told that "we don't care much about the roots."  The seeded heads of the gü'ka' were gathered in bunches and placed in the hot ashes for two or three minutes, then the seeds were extracted and eaten." (Kelly 1932:102)

Northern Paiute: "Joshua stated that the digging stick was not required in gathering wild onions; "they just pulled them up with the hands."  He said that such bulbs were cooked in small quantities by being placed between two heated rock slabs until soft.  According to him, "They were all fresh.  They never made your belly ache, your tooth ache, or your head ache; no, nothing.  They all ate them." My notes do not mention drying the brodiaea or any of the wild onions, and in view of Chamberlin's observation, its seems likely that they were not so treated." (Kelly 1932:102)

Northern Paiute: "The spring plant collecting area was a highly significant part of the larger seasonal round.  At specific sites, the roots of various species were collected.  These included sego lily, bitterroot, yampah, wild onion, biscuitroot, and several species of lomatium." (Couture et al. 1986:154)

Northern Paiute: "A number of wild plant species are tolerated, encouraged, or even transplanted to yards and fields on the reservation...Those encouraged or tolerated include willow, red-osier dogwood, balsamroot, blazing star, giant wild rye, juniper, bulrush, cattail, biscuitroot, and wild onion." (Couture et al. 1986:157)

Pit River: "Then in the less swampy areas or in the uplands adjacent to the valleys are found the epos root, wild garlic, wild turnip, wild buckwheat, all highly regarded as food." (Kniffen 1928:301-302) 

Distribution Map: