Wednesday, November 30, 2022

The Many Layers of the Yorktown Onion

The Yorktown Onion (WYDaily/Courtesy of National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park - Yorktown Battlefield)
It’s that time of year again. The Yorktown Onion is back in bloom. (WYDaily file)

YORK COUNTY — As locals and tourists drive down Colonial Parkway along Yorktown right now, they may notice the three to four-foot tall, purple-headed flowers standing high above the grass.

The early summer bloom of the famous Yorktown Onion has arrived, and you can look, but you can’t pick.

The Yorktown Onion, also known as the Wild Leek or the Wild Garlic, is not native to the U.S., but it is unique to Yorktown. 

The plant originated in Europe and is suggested by historians to have been brought to Yorktown as seeds during the Revolutionary War. 

The unique flower naturalized locally and soon became established here as a wild plant and can now be seen by locals throughout the months of May and June every year. 

Its scientific name is Allium Ampeloprasum, with Allium latin for “garlic” and Ampeloprasum meaning “leek of the vineyard.”

Residents of the Historic Triangle might claim the Yorktown Onion as their own, but it is considered naturalized in many parts of the world and the southeastern U.S., plus California and Ohio. 

But in York County, the plant is protected by a code which bans people from picking the onion.

Those driving along the parkway or are visiting the Yorktown Battlefields may stop and marvel at the plant’s beauty and uniqueness. 

The Colonial Parkway is rich with beautiful flowers during spring and summer, but perhaps nothing is as mysterious and exclusive as the Yorktown Onion.   

Look at them soon, because by late June, these wildflowers will be gone until next year. 

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