Plant of the Week
Brandegee’s Onion (Allium brandegeei)
By Teresa Prendusi
Brandegee’s onion is a very distinctive onion found in the interior western portion of the United States. As with all other wild onions, it is a member of the Lily family (Liliaceae). It has distinctive white to pink flowers arranged in a dense cluster (up to 30 flowers per umbel) on a stem that is much shorter than the leaves. Each flower has pale pink anthers and six tepals with each tepal bearing a prominent green to reddish midrib. Individual scapes have two narrowly linear leaves that arise from the base of each plant, these about twice as long as the flowering umbel.
Allium brandegeei grows on sandy or rocky soils in the mountains of western Colorado, and Wyoming, to southwest Montana, across Idaho, Nevada, and Utah to eastern Oregon. It appears soon after the snows melt in late April-July at elevations between 1200-3000 meters.
The species is named in honor of Townshend Sith Brandegee (1843-1925) an American civil engineer and botanist, who with the Hayden expedition explored southwest Colorado and adjacent Utah in 1874. In 1897, he was hired to map the newly-established Teton Forest Reserve in Wyoming. By 1906, he and his equally famous botanist wife, Katherine Brandegee, collected over 75,000 plant specimens throughout the western U.S. and had an important and lasting influence on western American botany. They have at least 120 species named in their honor.