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Sand Leek

Allium scorodoprasum

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Amaryllidaceae (Amaryllis)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
60 centimetres tall
Beaches, grassland, hedgerows, meadows, parks, riverbanks, roadsides, scrub, seaside, towns, wasteland, woodland.

Purple, 6 petals
The flower consists of numerous dark purple bulbils. Pollinated by insects.
A capsule. The seeds are rarely set.
Sand Leek is a perennial plant growing from an underground bulb. There are 2 to 5 linear, stalkless, grass-like leaf blades. The leaves are flat and with parallel veins. Sand Leeks are mainly found in Northern England and Southern Scotland but can occasionally be found elsewhere in the UK.
Smells of garlic.
Other Names:
Korean Pickled-peel Garlic, Rocambole, Rocambole, Sand Garlic, Spanish Garlic, Wood Leek.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Allium scorodoprasum, also known as sand leek, wood leek or rocambole, is a species of perennial bulbous plants in the Amaryllidaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia. This species is a hardy, perennial bulb, producing tall, sturdy stems up to 1.5m tall, with large, broad leaves and large, globular umbels of greenish-white flowers in late spring and early summer. The bulbs have a strong garlicky flavor, and are used in Mediterranean cuisine. The leaves are also used as a seasoning. It is also used as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes due to its large and showy flowers. It is tolerant of drought and can be grown in a wide range of soil types. It is also tolerant of coastal conditions and pollution, making it suitable for planting in urban areas. It is also hardy to cold temperatures, making it suitable for planting in colder climates.


Allium scorodoprasum, commonly known as Sand Leek, is a wild plant belonging to the Allium genus, which also includes onions, garlic, and shallots. Sand Leek is a perennial herb that grows in sandy soils and rocky areas in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and cuisine.

The plant grows up to 60 centimeters tall and has narrow, grass-like leaves that are about 1-2 centimeters wide. The flowers are pink or white and bloom from June to August. The bulbs of the plant are small, round, and clustered, and they have a strong, pungent odor that is similar to garlic.

In traditional medicine, Sand Leek has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems, digestive issues, and rheumatism. It is believed to have antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. However, more research is needed to confirm these claims.

Sand Leek is also a popular ingredient in European cuisine, particularly in France, where it is used to flavor soups, stews, and sauces. The bulbs can be pickled or roasted, and the leaves can be used like chives or scallions. The plant is also a popular ingredient in traditional Bulgarian dishes, where it is used to make a type of pesto called skordalia.

Despite its culinary and medicinal uses, Sand Leek is not widely cultivated and can be difficult to find in markets. However, it can be foraged in sandy or rocky areas during the summer months. It is important to be careful when foraging for Sand Leek, as it can easily be confused with other plants in the Allium genus that are toxic, such as crow garlic and wild garlic.

Sand Leek is also known by various other names, including Rocambole, Spanish Garlic, and Sand Garlic. In some regions of Europe, it is also called "poor man's asparagus" due to its resemblance to asparagus and its popularity as a substitute for the expensive vegetable.

The plant is relatively easy to grow and is well-suited to sandy or well-drained soils. It prefers full sun or partial shade and can tolerate dry conditions. It can be propagated by dividing the bulbs in the fall or by planting seeds in the spring.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, Sand Leek has also been used in traditional rituals and folklore. In Bulgaria, for example, it is believed to have protective properties and is used to ward off evil spirits. In some regions of France, it is believed to bring good luck to those who eat it on St. John's Day, which falls on June 24th.

Despite its many benefits, Sand Leek is not without its drawbacks. Like other members of the Allium genus, it can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some people, especially when eaten raw. It can also cause skin irritation in some individuals.

Sand Leek has been found to contain various beneficial compounds, including alliin, allicin, and quercetin. Alliin is a sulfur-containing compound that is converted to allicin when the plant is crushed or chopped. Allicin is responsible for the characteristic odor and taste of Sand Leek and has been found to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin is a flavonoid that has antioxidant properties and has been found to have potential benefits for heart health and immune function.

Studies have also suggested that Sand Leek may have potential as a natural insecticide. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that extracts from Sand Leek bulbs were effective at repelling several types of insects, including mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.

In terms of conservation, Sand Leek is considered a species of "least concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, like many wild plant species, it is vulnerable to habitat loss and over-harvesting. To ensure its continued survival, it is important to practice responsible foraging and cultivation practices.

Sand Leek is also known for its potential health benefits. As a member of the Allium genus, it is rich in organosulfur compounds, which have been linked to various health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving cardiovascular health, and potentially reducing the risk of certain types of cancer.

Studies have also suggested that Sand Leek may have potential as a natural remedy for respiratory infections. In a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers found that an extract from Sand Leek bulbs was effective at inhibiting the growth of the bacteria responsible for pneumonia and bronchitis.

Another study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that Sand Leek had higher antioxidant activity than other Allium species, including garlic and onion. Antioxidants are important for protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases.

In addition to its potential health benefits, Sand Leek is a versatile and flavorful ingredient in the kitchen. It can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, salads, and sauces. It pairs well with other ingredients like potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms.

Overall, Sand Leek is a fascinating and underutilized plant with a rich history and many potential benefits. Whether used in traditional medicine, cuisine, or as a natural remedy, Sand Leek is a valuable addition to any herbal or culinary repertoire.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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