Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wildflower Wednesday: Nothoscordum bivalve

 Like a few of my favorite wildflowers, this one was first spotted in my way back backyard many moons ago! It was growing in full sun (before the trees leafed out) where the soil is wet in the winters and dry in the summers. I knew immediately that it was something special with its fresh white flowers. It looked like a wild Allium, but the scent was not at all like an onion or garlic; it was sweet and worth crawling on my hands and knees to get a good sniff. Of course, I looked it up in my wildflower guide. Turns out this wild garlic looking plant is Nothoscordum bivalve a native member of the Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis or Narcissus family). Once upon a time it was in the Lily family.

The word Nothoscordum is derived from the Greek word Nothos meaning “false” and Scordum, meaning garlic. Individual plants are about a foot high with a single smooth hollow stem/scape that emerges from an underground bulb. Each plant also has several long, grass-like leaves that emerge from the base of the plant. Mature clumps can reach up to 16" tall and spread to fill an 8" area. The scapes can reach up to 16" tall and are topped with an umbel of 4-8 small, upward-facing flowers in spring. The 0.5" wide flowers are made up of six white tepals with yellow tinged bases. MOBOT


hollow stem, grass like leaves and umbel flowers


It is native to the eastern United States from Texas to Florida up to Nebraska and Ohio, as well as Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, northeastern Argentina and central Chile where it grows in open woods, savannas, glades, barrens, and prairies. 

I've seen it in yards all over our neighborhood, but only where they never fertilize, just mow.  It is common in thin dry soils (my yard) and can be found blooming in early spring in cedar glades in middle Tennessee. In an open field about a mile from my house Nothoscordum bivalve is growing near Lime stonecrop (Sedum pulchellum), Glade sandwort (Arenaria patula) and Glade-Cress (Leavenworthia).*

So what does Nothoscordum bivalve offer? 

  • The flowers are an important early pollen and nectar source for bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators. 
  • beauty
  • a sweet scent 
  • second bloom is possible in the fall 
  • it requires no maintenance in a freedom lawn
  • it's part of a healthy ecosystem

in a freedom lawn


 The Particulars

Common Name: false garlic, crow poison

Type: Bulb 

Family: Amaryllidaceae 

Former name: Allium striatum  

Native Range: Eastern USA, Southern North America, South America 

Zone: 5 to 9 

Height: 0.75 to 1.25 feet 

Spread: 0.25 to 0.75 feet 

Bloom Time: March to May 

Bloom Description: White with yellow tinged bases 

Sun: Full sun to part shade 

Soil: Found on both acidic and calcareous substrates

Water: Dry to medium 

Maintenance: Low 

Comments: Will naturalize. Poisonous...do not eat. Will tolerate drought, dry, rocky and shallow soil

Wildlife value: It is a favorite nectar source for small butterflies such as the falcate orangetip. The nectar of the flowers attracts cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), green metallic bees (Augochlorella spp.) and other Halictid bees, Andrenid bees (Andrena spp.), bee flies, and small to medium-sized butterflies. One of the Andrenid bees, Andrena nothoscordi, is a specialist pollinator (oligolege or monolege) of False Garlic (Nothoscordum bivalve). This bee and other small bees also collect pollen from the flowers. Syrphid flies may visit the flowers occasionally to feed on the pollen, but they are less effective at cross-pollination. White-tailed Deer have been observed to feed on the foliage of False Garlic in areas of south Texas with loam or clay-loam soil (Chamrad & Box, 1968), although some authors consider this plant to be poisonous (Pammel, 1911). There is also sophisticated archaeological evidence that prehistoric people, thousands of years ago, cooked the bulbs of this plant in rock ovens in east Texas (Short et al., 2015). (source)


Sally and Andy Wosowski

*Long time readers know that this garden has given me a wealth of small ephemeral and perennial wildflowers. Downy Woodmint, Blue-eyed grass, Western Daisy, Penstemon calycosus , Woodland Carex, Fleabanes, Ragwort, several Ruellias, Phacelias, Toothworts, Dutchman's breeches, Rue anemone and False rue anemone and Trilliums.  All these wildflowers point out what a rich woodland this neighborhood had once been. Neighbors who live on or near the ridges know exactly what I mean. In their yards you'll find Hydrangea arborescens, woodland Phlox, Trillium, Toad lilies, and many more wildflowers that are too often thought of as weeds, but, are valuable to the critters who live and visit our gardens. They mourn along with me the loss of habitat due to the new builds. Yes, there was habitat loss when these houses were built in the early and mid 50s, but, they left rich pockets of woodlands where wildflowers survived. Now entire acres of trees, understory shrubs and ephemerals are being bulldozed for giant starter castles with their monoculture lawns.

Many of us watch the destruction with dismay and continue to plant as many natives as we can. Our hope is that our yards will be teaching grounds for younger people moving in the neighborhood, as well as a refuge for the critters who are losing their woodlands. 

I started Wildflower Wednesday to introduce native wildflowers to others in the hope that they would appreciate their beauty and their wildlife value and be moved to plant them in their gardens and yards. 

Stories celebrating wildflowers are needed now more than ever. It is alarming to watch the full scale destruction of habitat in my city and all around the country. It seemed a good time for a challenge to my readers. A two part challenge! 

The first part of this challenge is to do something every month during 2022 that supports native wildflowers, pollinators, and the critters that visit and rely on our gardens. Activities that increase our knowledge of the natural world are equally as valuable. The second part of the challenge is to post about it somewhere: Your blog; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and especially, your neighborhood listserve. 

Why post it? Because positive publicity is needed to educate our friends, neighbors and communities about how important even the smallest changes we make as gardeners can be for pollinators, birds, insects and mammals that live all around us. Perhaps we can inspire those new to the neighborhood to decrease the size of their lawns and add more gardens.

An incomplete list of things you might consider doing or changing in your garden

Shrink your lawn and make your planting beds larger.

Plant your favorite native perennials and shrubs. Leave them standing after they've gone to seed to continue to provide for wildlife. What you plant in your yard makes a difference to wildlife. I garden for wildlife so every tree, shrub and plant is chosen with wildlife in mind.

Plant more natives and then consider planting even more. "A typical suburban landscape contains only 20-30% native plant species. Try reversing that trend in your own landscape by using 70-80% native species." (source

Commit to never, ever, ever, ever using pesticides in the garden.

Stay away from native plant hybrids and cultivars that are double flowered. They are sterile and have no pollen or nectar for insects and no seeds for the birds. If possible plant “true open-pollinated native wildflowers”

If you want to garden for wildlife and pollinators, don't let lack of space stop you! Plant your favorite wildflowers in large containers. You just might have the prairie or woodland garden you've always wanted...in a pot!
Create a water feature. Provide water year round that is accessible to birds, bees and other critters.

Show some soil! Our native ground nesting bees nest in bare soil, so don't mulch every square inch of your garden. 

Invite bugs into your garden. Plant annuals that attract beneficial bugs.

Learn to tolerate damaged plants. Imperfection is the new perfect.

Don't be in a rush to clean up the fall garden. Leave plant stalks and seed heads standing all winter. Leave those fallen leaves or as many as you can tolerate! Insects over winter in the fallen and decaying leaves.

Leave a layer of leaves as a soft landing material under trees for moths and butterflies to over winter. Many caterpillars drop to the ground from the trees in the fall.

Make a brush pile. Stack fallen brush, cut tree limbs, broken pots for ground beetles. Ground beetles are excellent at eating "bad bugs'. They're also good bird, toad and small critter food. 

Rethink what you consider a pest. Lots of good bugs eat aphids. Spiders are important predators and bird food!

Add nesting boxes for birds.

Plant shrubs and small trees that provide berries and nuts.

Keep a nature journal: Observe visitors to the water feature, make note of when they visit. Notice which flowers attract the most pollinators and which ones are just pretty faces. 

Join your state native plant society.

Join WildOnes even if there's no local group.

Take an online course on tree, fungi and wildflower id.

Take a walk in your neighborhood and observe nature. To quote Joanna Brichetto in Sidewalk Nature "Look Around. Nature is here, is us, our driveways, our baseboards, parks, and parking lots."

Buy the best wildflower, butterfly and bird id books for your state.

Read nature books to your children and grandchildren. 

Read! There are hundreds of books on gardening for wildlife, the environment, and rewilding our world. There are delightful blogs with wonderful and informative articles.

If you live in Nashville join the Facebook ReWild Nashville Group!

Welcome to Clay and Limestone and Wildflower Wednesday.  This day is about sharing wildflowers and other native plants no matter where one gardens~the UK, tropical Florida, Europe, Australia, Africa, South America, India or the coldest reaches of Canada. It doesn't matter if we sometimes share the same plants. How they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most.

Please leave your links in comments,  I am not using Mr Linky.

Keep gardening and keep positive,


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Thanks for posting today. I learned something - always a good day for that kind of thing!

  2. That's a beauty, Gail. I'm a bit too far north for it, but its native range extends through Illinois. Your description of the ephemerals on your property is familiar; our backyard here is full of them, too. :)

  3. I always learn so much from your Wildflower Wednesday posts. What another wonderful native jewel! No wonder you want to help save this jewel! I spend so much time and energy eradicating invasive plants from our woodlands; it is such a shame our own little lovelies weren't treasured enough. You are helping to open my own eyes to these treasures. Thank-you!

  4. A good post Gail. I don't think I have seen this little one before. Maybe it doesn't grow here. Hmmmmm

  5. Hmmm, I have an unknown bulb planted here that looks just like this, only with pink veining. I wrote to a bulb company about it, they think it's Brodiaea laxa Silver Queen, but I'm still not sure! It was a freebie that came with my tulip order.

  6. I have a mystery bulb here that is supposedly Brodiaea laxa Silver Queen, but I’m not convinced. It looks nearly identical to this, only with pink veins.

  7. I have a nearly identical plant here, only with pink veining, and supposedly it's Brodiaea laxa Silver Queen. But I'm not convinced! They were freebie bulbs, so who knows.

  8. Nothos - false garlic - now I can remember that (altho ours is sadly just a garden weed)


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson