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"Alli" is the classical Latin name for garlic and onion plants.
See also pink Allium.

Allium macropetalum
Allium macropetalum (Large-petaled Onion, San Juan Onion)
Amaryllidaceae. Synonyms: Liliaceae, Alliaceae. (Amaryllis Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
McElmo Canyon, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, April 5, 2005.

Although Allium macropetalum is a dainty plant, it is often quite noticeable, for it grows in extensive patches formed by its proliferating underground bulbs.  In the spring of 2005, millions of these onions carpeted huge areas of the Four Corners. See the very similar Allium textile below for more information and a photograph of the bracts at the base of the flower cluster.

Marcus Jones collected this plant near Cisco, Utah, and in 1902 named it Allium reticulatum variety deserticola.  Per Axel Rydberg renamed it Allium macropetalum in 1904.

Allium macropetalum
Allium macropetalum (Large-petaled Onion, San Juan Onion)
Amaryllidaceae. Synonyms: Liliaceae, Alliaceae. (Amaryllis Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
BLM lands south of Bloomfield, New Mexico, April 23, 2007.

Allium macropetalum
Allium macropetalum (Large-petaled Onion, San Juan Onion)
Amaryllidaceae. Synonyms: Liliaceae, Alliaceae. (Amaryllis Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area, Utah, April 16, 2008.

The pattern of fiber covering the bulb is often important in identifying onions. Allium macropetalum, A. geyeri, and A. textile all have an interlaced network of woven fibers; A. brevistylum, A. accuminatum, A. nevadense, and A. brandegeei are either non-fibrous or have parallel, not woven, fibers.

I don't like to dig out plants just to identify them, so I was lucky to find the onion in the photograph at left recently dug out by some small critter. 

Allium macropetalum
Allium macropetalum (Large-petaled Onion, San Juan Onion)
Amaryllidaceae. Synonyms: Liliaceae, Alliaceae. (Amaryllis Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
BLM lands near the San Juan River, Utah, April 6, 2005.

Albinos are uncommon.

Allium nevadense
Allium nevadense (Nevada Onion)
Amaryllidaceae. Synonyms: Liliaceae, Alliaceae. (Amaryllis Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, May 10, 2007.

This starkly white beauty grows with little else around it on hot sands; it easily gains your attention.  Bulbs are buried about five inches and are patterned in an amorphous reticulation.  The plant is rare in a few counties in Colorado and does not exist in New Mexico or in the Four Corners counties of Arizona.  It is common in Utah. 

In 1871 Sereno Watson named and described this species from a specimen he collected in Nevada.

Allium nevadense
Allium nevadense (Nevada Onion)
Amaryllidaceae. Synonyms: Liliaceae, Alliaceae. (Amaryllis Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
Hidden Valley Trail, Utah, May 10, 2007.

Allium textile

Allium textile

Allium textile (Textile Onion)
Amaryllidaceae. Synonyms: Liliaceae, Alliaceae. (Amaryllis Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah, April 14, 2004 Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, April 17, 2012.

This lovely bouquet brightens sandy soils in early spring.  Look for the long narrow onion leaves (one to four per plant) that mark the spot where the flower stalks will soon emerge. 

One can distinguish between A. textile and A. macropetalum (see top of this page) without digging up the bulbs: look at the nerves (the veins) on the bracts (the long pointed, papery structures that cover the bud and then subtend the flower cluster).  A. textile usually has one nerve, A. macropetalum has three to five nerves. In the photograph of A. macropetalum immediately below, you can see three nerves at the tip of the arrow.

Allium macropetalum

Also, the crest on the ovary on A. textile is not as pronounced as that on A. macropetalum.

Tepal color of both plants is similar: typically white to pink with pink/purple/brown stripes.

The noted 19th century botanist and teacher, Thomas Nuttall, collected this plant on the banks of the Missouri, probably in 1811.  He named it Allium reticulatum in 1813 and it was renamed Allium textile in 1913 by Aven Nelsen and James MacBride.  "Textile" refers to the fibrous, reticulated, textile-like tissue around the bulb.

Allium textile
Allium textile (Textile Onion)
Amaryllidaceae. Synonyms: Liliaceae, Alliaceae. (Amaryllis Family)

Semi-desert. Openings. Spring.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah, April 14, 2004.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Allium macropetalum

Range map for Allium nevadense

Range map for Allium textile