Angled onion look-alikes

first off – let’s look at the real angled onion

If you’ve read Let’s Eat Weeds you’ll know that angled onion (scientific name: Allium triquetrum) makes for a tasty salad plant. It grows in the colder months of the year. It likes wetter areas – it loves banks of creeks – in the southern half of Australia. It has been found as far north as Brisbane but it’s less common there and other warmer parts.

Before it gets its flowers it looks a fair bit like grass! In winter – before it flowers – it looks like this:

The smell of angled onion is really strong though. Squeeze it and you’ll know what we mean – like raw garlic. It’s powerful. Vampires-run-away-from-you powerful.

When it grows flowers it looks more like this:

Let’s look at those flowers more closely…

Notice six petals with lovely green lines down the middle. The flowers tend to hang like bells towards the ground.

If you break a flower stem in half you’ll notice that it’s very triangular in cross section. The leaves also have a pointy midrib and when broken you can see that they are a bit triangular too. This is where it gets its name ‘angled’ onion from.


broken leaf and stem of angled onion
The broken leaf (left) and flower stem (right) of angled onion

the look-alikes

false onion weed

False onion weed (scientific name: Nothoscordum borbonicum) tends to grow in the same states of Australia as angled onion, but usually in dryer places. Sometimes you’ll find both plants in the same backyard though. It doesn’t smell much, but it does have a hint of an almost-oniony smell, but not in a nice way. 


Nothoscordum gracile
photo by lunakat

It doesn’t look as lush and juicy as angled onion. The flower stems are thinner, harder and longer.

Nothoscordum × borbonicum flowers
photo by rlgordon3
Nothoscordum gracile flowers
photo by lunakat

The flowers of false onion weed do look a bit similar to angled onion’s, but they tend to point upwards, not down. And they don’t have that green line in the middle of each petal.


One of these bunches of flowers is false onion weed, and the other is angled onion. Can you tell which is which?

The flower stem of false onion weed is round, not triangular, in cross section. The leaves are more like straps, without that pointy bit along the midrib.

The broken leaf (left) and flower stem (right) of false onion weed (not triangular at all!)

It’s not considered a poisonous plant and some people even eat the bulbs that it forms in the soil, although we’ve never tried it.


snowflakes (also called snowdrops)

Rather than a weed, snowflakes (scientific name: Leucojum aestivum) are planted in the garden for their flowers. They are not edible (but they probably aren’t especially poisonous either). While they are a ‘look-alike’ they aren’t a ‘smell-alike’ so luckily we don’t think anyone would mix them up for long.

Snowflakes also grow in similar parts of Australia as angled onion. You can see how you might think at first glance that you’d found an angled onion:

Leucojum aestivum plant
photo by tonyrebelo

If you look closely though, you’ll see differences.

photo by roseanne67
Leucojum aestivum flower
photo by sjmuller

Snowflakes has little green dots on each petal rather than stripes. Like false onion weed, it has a round flower stem and strappy leaves without the pointy midrib. And like we said, it doesn’t smell like onion or garlic at all. (Florists are probably happy about that!)

So those are the main ones we think you might confuse for angled onion. There could be others but really if you look for the triangular shape leaves and that strong garlic smell, you’ll have angled onion.

See more photos in our weeds gallery and if you don’t have the book you can buy it here.