South African Onion

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Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15
South African Onion

Maybe this is something for the Onion Man!?
I bought this bulb in South Africa years ago but have lost the name. I think it is an Allium relative. Any suggestions?

It flowers after some months without water. I have not dared to try it outside in winter. It flowers for a couple of months.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Trond, this is Tulbaghia simmleri (syn. fragrans)

Tulbaghia is a small genus in the Alliaceae related to Allium, they're from South Africa. The flowers on this one should be very sweetly scented.  The bulbs and leaves (when bruised) smell strongly of skunk.  None are hardy that I know of, the hardiest being T. violacea, which takes some degree of freezing and is popular in California and milder southern climates.

More photos: The African Garden, by David Fenwick, Tulbaghia species
...and a page just for forms/cultivars of T. violacea

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at

Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Thank you Mark. At it is a Tulbaghia makes sense! It is similar in some ways to T violacea that I have - but I hadn't thought it to be the same genus! And the scent is very sweet indeed.
Thanks for the links too.

Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Boland's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-25

I saw several Tulbaghia species in South Africa last November but none as tall as yours Trond.  I never smelled the flowers but the foliage was certainly garlic-like.

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

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