WILD GARLIC

All indigenous species of wild garlic in South Africa are named after Ryk Tulbagh, the Dutch governor of the Cape from 1751 to 1771. How I marvel at the enterprise of the early explorers, artists, writers, botanists, and administrators whose insatiable curiosity and meticulous record-keeping have formed the basis of so much of what we know about our flora. Tulbagh sent numerous South African plants to the legendary Carl Linnaeus for classification. Wild Garlic was among these.

The general appearance of both the plant and flowers of Wild Garlic resembles that of an onion. Tulbaghia violacea is the best known of the indigenous species as it is has become a popular garden plant both here and internationally. The flowers are very attractive.

Particularly useful as far as I am concerned, is that Wild Garlic tolerates prolonged drought conditions, although it obviously thrives when well-watered. This evergreen perennial with long, narrow, strap-like, slightly fleshy leaves bears pinkish-mauve tubular flowers on long stems. The leaves smell strongly of garlic when bruised, as do the flowers when they are picked.

The flowers bloom in the summer, usually from about January until April. I have read a recommendation that crushing some of the leaves while one is sitting outside in the evening might help to deter the annoying presence of mosquitoes – I have not tested this theory yet, but if it works I will be very pleased as I am not partial to using commercial sprays or creams to keep mosquitoes at bay. The other aspect I have not yet tried out is using either the leaves or flowers in salads.

Wild Garlic grows throughout the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and in Limpopo. It multiplies by making offsets that develop into clumps and the flowers are pollinated by butterflies and bees.

This is an interesting article about Wild Garlic which you might enjoy reading:

https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/archive/wild-garlic-a-lingering-allure/

29 thoughts on “WILD GARLIC

    • We get some white varieties here too. The one I have focused on is the prettiest, which it is why the flowers are cultivated, especially by gardeners in the drier parts of the country.

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  1. A very pretty plant… I imagine it is a valuable garden flower. I’m not sure I’d like to make myself smell like garlic to avoid mosquitoes, though. I prefer mint! 😉

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    • I do too 🙂 I have planted some wild garlic near to where we enjoy sitting outside on warm evenings – perhaps bruising a few leaves in the vicinity might help.

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    • I intend to explore some of them once my plants come into bloom. The ones in the first photograph are already blooming on the verge a little distance from my home.

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  2. I love your garlic flowers. Near where I live there is what my husband and I refer to as ‘the garlic forest’! It’s a hillside road with a forest on the steeply sloping side of the hill and on the other side – wild garlic. So, an interesting scent (!) to be had whenever we drive through it!

    Garlic is good for keeping away a lot of different types of bugs. Another thing you can try is lemon.

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    • Thank you for the lemon suggestion, Val! Your ‘garlic forest’ sounds interesting. I do not see large enough swathes of ‘my’ wild garlic to know if they collectively give off such a scent 🙂

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  3. I know a few people who complain that the scent of our wild garlic gives them headaches, but I for one love walking through a clump of them so that their aroma fills our little garden.

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  4. That is interesting about the leaves keeping away mosquitoes.
    Mansoa alliacea, or garlic vine also has leaves that smell like garlic when crushed. People believe it keeps away snakes. I am not sure about the veracity of the claim. Bees and butterflies love the vine.

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  5. I’m really enjoying my daily visits to your blog, Ann. Thank you! I’m learning something new almost on a daily basis, and am equally enjoying reading the thoughtful and interesting comments left by your other lovely readers/subscribers.
    I’m so pleased to have discovered you and also to know that you live in Grahamstown, where I spent my university days and where I met my husband 44 years ago. He also went to school there (Kingswood College) so his ties go back a lot further than mine.
    I have not been back since graduation (1977) and I imagine it will have changed considerably since then. You certainly sound very happy there!
    Believe it or not, I just very recently bought a couple of these wild garlic plants to add to my own garden. I learnt the hard way about their “stinkiness” when I’d pinched a few of the delightful flowers from a pavement garden, many decades ago, to display in a little vase in my room.
    I now know after whom they were named.

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    • Thank you very much for your kind comment, Desirée. I do tend to wander from this to that depending on the photographs I have or what scribbles I find in my piles. I am glad to have you on board as a fellow traveller!

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    • Those sturdy stems help to make these flowers stand out among the wild grasses, which still tend to be brown – until our part of the country receives some soaking rain.

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  6. It really is a lovely little plant. I also haven’t yet ventured to add it to salad. Perhaps I will test it as a mosquito deterrent next time we have a clear evening.

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