FALSE GARLIC Nothoscordum bivalve

The wildflower kingdom provides a lesson for us. It is made up of great diversity of habitat, shape, size, color and stature. The same is true of humanity. It would be a tragic commentary on our values if we revel in the diversity of wildflowers but neglect hospitality to a neighbor who looks different, has a different diet, and speaks with a different accent. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

For today’s wildflower we must return to our area granite outcroppings and examine a wildflower that is more likely found in the thin sandy soils bordering the granite.


Nothoscordum bivalve

The primary locale for false garlic in next to a granite outcropping. However, when the sediment is deep enough in the indentions atop the outcrop, this plant will thrive there as well. In addition to these, some false garlic can be found in sandy waste places like ditches, abandoned fields and open woods.

This wildflower has a structure that is reminiscent of the true garlic. Note the umbrella shape (umbel) at the top of a single leafless stem. The leaves are basal and thin, as illustrated.

Another characteristic that leads one to assume there is some likeness to garlic is the underground bulb. However, when the bulb is split open the odor is faint and not like that of either an onion or garlic.

False garlic may stand as tall as 2 feet depending on the thickness of the soil and presence of moisture. Most often the plants are only 1 foot tall. Because of extended droughts, there may be very few to be seen for several years.

The blooms that form in the umbel usually number from three to 10. The flowers have six pointed petals that are slightly cup-shaped. The cream-colored 1/2 inch petal has a pink vein down the middle (exaggerated in the sketch). On the underside the vein is red. In the bud stage the color is a lovely lavender-pink. The bloom has six stamens with an unusual shape. The filaments are broad like a tiny thick petal and the anther (that holds the pollen) is perched crosswise.

The largest patch of false garlic that I have found is in a field on the left at the top of the long hill above the Yellow River on Ga. Highway 20 North. A few years ago, the owner graded surrounding soil over a small outcrop. It is likely that that outcrop was a small part of a much larger piece of granite that spreads across the top of that ridge, perhaps for many acres.

There is another name given for this wildflower that signals a warning to owners of livestock, cowpoison. This is the name that the U.S. Department of Agriculture used for Nothoscordum bivalve.

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Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit The Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers. , or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.

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