Herb: Wood Leek

Latin name: Allium tricoccum

Family: Alliaceae (Onion Family)

Medicinal use of Wood Leek:

This species probably has most of the medicinal virtues of garlic (Allium sativum) but in a milder form. Traditionally the leaves were used in the treatment of colds and croup, and also as a spring tonic. The warm juice of the leaves and bulb was used externally in the treatment of earaches. A strong decoction of the root is emetic.

Description of the plant:


30 cm
(11 3/4 inch)

to July

Habitat of the herb:

Rich woods and bottoms, preferring slopes and streamsides. Usually in beech and maple woods.

Edible parts of Wood Leek:

Bulb - raw or cooked. Used mainly as a flavouring in salads and savoury dishes. This is one of the best N. American wild species for sweetness and flavour. A mild sweet flavour, resembling leeks. The bulb is rather small, it is up to 12mm wide and 50mm tall and is produced in clusters on a rhizome. Leaves - raw or cooked. The unfolding leaves in spring have a mild sweet flavour, resembling leeks. Flowers - raw. Used as a garnish on salads. A hot onion flavour.

Other uses of the herb:

The juice of the plant is used as a moth repellent. The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles.

Propagation of Wood Leek:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates within 12 months, but only makes a root and a small bulb in its first year of growth. Top growth is not produced until the second spring. It is quite possible that if the seed can be sown when it is ripe in early summer, or in the autumn, then this will speed up germination times. Sow the seed thinly in the pots so that the young seedlings can be allowed to grow on undisturbed for their first two years. Apply a liquid feed once a month during the growing season to ensure they do not suffer from mineral deficiency. When the plants are dormant at the end of their second years growth, divide them so that there are 2 - 3 small bulbs in each pot. Grow them on for a further year in the greenhouse and then plant them out when they are dormant. Division in spring. Very easy, the divisions can be planted straight out into their permanent positions if required.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rich woods and bottoms, preferring slopes and streamsides. Usually in beech and maple woods.

Known hazards of Allium tricoccum:

Although no individual reports regarding this species have been seen, there have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in very large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.