This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The distribution of this beautiful but strong-smelling liliaceous plant is quite modern, being the N. Temperate Zone in Europe, except Greece and N. Asia. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, Anglia, and Severn provinces; in S. Wales, except in Cardigan; in N. Wales, except in Montgomery; in the Trent province, except in S. Lincs; in the Mersey, Humber, Tyne, and Lakes provinces; and in the West and E. Lowlands, except in Elgin; in the W. Highlands, except in Mid Ebudes; in the N. Highlands; and in the Hebrides only in the Northern Isles. It is general elsewhere from Skye and Ross to the English Channel, and in Yorks rises to 1200 ft. It is native in Ireland.
Garlic is a decidedly local though widespread plant, Watson having only met with it once in North Britain, and not in Surrey, where it is common. It grows in clamp hollows in woods and copses, and also in shady lanes under hedges, and in hedgerows in fields where there is plenty of cover.
Garlic grows from a bulb. This tends to bury itself deeper and deeper in the soil. Garlic has much the habit of Lily-of-the-Valley, with radical leaves, solid, flat, lance-shaped, stalked, few, broad, and smooth and bright green. They are reversed, and the stomata lie on the upper surface below. The bulbs are slender and acute.
The flowers are white, borne in terminal clustered umbels on a naked triangular stem, with an egg-shaped, 2-valved spathe. The flowering stem is solitary. The 6 stamens in 2 sets of 3 are all simple, shorter than the segments, the anther-stalks free and slender. The perianth segments are 6 in number. The capsule is 3-lobed and 3-valved.
Photo. J. H. Crabtree
Photo. Matson - Garlic (allium Ursinum, L.)
Garlic is 1 ft. high. Flowers are found in April and May. The plant is perennial, and increased by offsets.
The flowers contain honey at the base of the ovary in 3 notches between the carpels, and are therefore visited by insects. The style is about half its length when the flower expands, and without papillae, and the anthers are not perfect.
The flowers are imperfectly proterandrous, i.e. the anthers mature first. The 3 inner anthers open first in succession, by which time the style is 41/2 - 5 mm., or three-quarters of its length. The 3 outer anthers next open. When the style is 6 mm. long the stigma ripens, and becomes covered with little wart-like knobs.
The anthers open inwards, turning upwards. The style is often bent so that the stigma touches the anthers covered with pollen, causing self-pollination occasionally. A bee touches the anthers with one side and the stigma with the other side of the head, which cross-pollinates the flowers when fully advanced. The visitors are flies, bees, and humble bees.
The fruit splits open, and sets the seeds free when ripe to fall around the flowering stems.
Garlic is a clay-loving plant, growing on clay soil, or a lime-loving plant, and addicted to a lime soil, as limestone, oolite, chalk.
One stage of a Fungus, Puccinia sessilis, grows on Garlic. Cceoma alliorum also attacks it, and Peronospora schleideni and Melampsora salicis (willow-rod canker).
A beetle, Meligethes rufipes, and a Hymenopterous insect, Andrena angustior, are found on it.
Allium, Plautus, is Latin for garlic, and ursinum, pertaining to a bear, refers to the smell. Garlic is from A. S. gar, spear, leac, leek.
The plant is called Bear's-foot, Bear's Garlic, Buckrams, Devil's Posy, Garlick, Wild Garlick, Onions, Hog's Garlick, Wild Leek, Ramps, Rams, Ramsden, Ramsey, Ram's Horns, Ramsons, Rommy or Roms, Rosems, Stink Plant. This plant was called Bear's Garlick, according to Tabernaemontanus, because bears delight in it.
The Chinese employ it against the Evil Eye. It was called Devil's Posy from a supposed connection with the Evil One. To dream of Garlic denoted discovery of hidden treasure, but the approach of domestic trouble. Aubrey says:
" Eat leeks in Lide [March] and ramsines in May, And all the year after physicians may play ".
It is regarded as the symbol of plenty by the Bolognese, who bury it on Midsummer Night as a charm against poverty. They used to believe in Cuba that "thirteen cloves of garlic at the end of a cord, worn round the neck for thirteen days, are considered a safeguard against jaundice ". On the thirteenth clay at midnight the wearer proceeded through the street, took off his garlic neckband, turned round, and flung it behind him without turning to see what became of it.
It has long been (and is still) used as a pot-herb, and for garnishing.
Essential Specific Characters: 301. Allium ursinum, L. - Scape triangular at the base, leaves radical, flat, lanceolate, sheathed at the base, petiolate, flowers white, in a flat-topped umbel.