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Wild Leek

Allium ampeloprasum

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.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Alliaceae (Onion)
Also in this family:
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Cliffs, gardens, grassland, meadows, parks, roadsides, sea cliffs, seaside, towns, wasteland, woodland.

Purple, 6 petals
The flowers of Wild Leek (Allium ampeloprasum), also known as Elephant Garlic, are characterized by their delicate yet robust appearance. Each flower cluster forms atop a tall, sturdy stem, typically reaching heights of up to 1 meter. The individual flowers are star-shaped and small, usually in shades ranging from pale pink to lavender, creating a subtle yet attractive display against the plant's long, strappy leaves. Wild Leek flowers bloom in spherical umbels, with numerous tiny flowers densely packed together, providing a feast of nectar and pollen for pollinators like bees and butterflies during the flowering season, which spans from late spring to early summer.
The fruit of Wild Leek consists of small, rounded capsules that develop after the flowers have been pollinated and faded. These capsules contain the seeds of the plant and typically appear green or pale brown in color. As they mature, the capsules dry out and split open, releasing the seeds within. The seeds themselves are small and black, often with a glossy appearance, and are dispersed by wind or other means once the capsule opens. This reproductive strategy ensures the spread and propagation of Wild Leek plants across suitable habitats, contributing to their presence in diverse ecosystems where they thrive.
The leaves of Wild Leek are one of its most distinctive features, characterized by their long, broad, and flat shape. They emerge from the base of the plant and grow in a clump of several leaves per plant. Each leaf can reach lengths of up to 50-80 centimeters and widths of 2-5 centimeters. The leaves are smooth and lanceolate, tapering to a point at the tip, with a deep green coloration. They have a slightly waxy texture and may exhibit a bluish-green hue in certain lighting conditions. Wild Leek leaves often have a mild garlic-like aroma when crushed, reflecting the plant's culinary and medicinal properties. These leaves play a crucial role in photosynthesis, providing the energy needed for the plant's growth and development throughout its lifecycle.
The fragrance of Wild Leek is distinctly garlic-like, though milder compared to its close relative, common garlic (Allium sativum). When the leaves or bulbs are crushed or bruised, they release a delicate aroma that combines garlic's pungency with a subtle herbal note. This fragrance is noticeable but not overpowering, making Wild Leek a popular choice for culinary purposes where a gentle garlic flavor is desired. The flowers of Wild Leek may also contribute a faint floral scent, especially noticeable when the plant is in bloom during late spring and early summer. Overall, the fragrance of Wild Leek adds a distinctive character to dishes while remaining pleasantly mild.
Other Names:
Broadleaf Wild Leek, Elephant Garlic, Pearl Onion, Perennial Leek.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Allium ampeloprasum is a species of perennial bulbous plants in the Amaryllidaceae family. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and western Asia. This species is commonly known as wild leek, perennial leek or elephant garlic. It is a hardy, perennial bulb, producing tall, sturdy stems with long, broad leaves and large, globular umbels of white or pinkish flowers in late spring and early summer. The bulbs have a strong garlic-like flavor and are used in Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisine. The leaves and bulbs are used in soups, stews, and as a seasoning. The plant 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, and it is also tolerant of coastal conditions and pollution making it suitable for planting in urban areas.


Wild leek, also known as Allium ampeloprasum, is a perennial plant species that is a member of the Allium genus. It is a wild relative of the cultivated leek, and is found throughout Europe, Asia, and parts of North Africa. The plant has been used for centuries for its medicinal and culinary properties.

The leaves of wild leek are long, flat, and green, with a distinct onion-like flavor and aroma. The plant can grow up to 5 feet tall, and produces a large, globe-shaped flower head that is composed of many small, purple flowers. The bulbs of wild leek are large and round, and are also edible.

One of the most popular uses for wild leek is in cooking. The plant's leaves and bulbs can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, and salads. Wild leek has a milder flavor than its cultivated cousin, and is often used as a substitute for onions or garlic in recipes.

In addition to its culinary uses, wild leek has also been used for its medicinal properties. The plant contains high levels of sulfur compounds, which are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Wild leek has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including colds, flu, and digestive problems.

Wild leek is also an important part of many traditional cuisines. In Europe, it is often used in traditional dishes like quiches and stews. In Asia, it is used in dishes like stir-fries and soups. In North Africa, it is often used in tagines and other savory dishes.

Despite its popularity, wild leek can be difficult to find in some areas. The plant is often foraged from the wild, and is not widely cultivated. If you are interested in trying wild leek, your best bet may be to visit a local farmer's market or specialty food store.

Wild leek has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds, and sore throats. It has also been used as a diuretic, to treat digestive problems, and to promote wound healing.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, wild leek also has cultural significance in some regions. In Wales, for example, wild leek is a national symbol and is used in traditional dishes like cawl, a hearty soup made with meat and vegetables.

Despite its many benefits, wild leek is not without its drawbacks. The plant can be difficult to cultivate, and its harvesting from the wild can have a negative impact on local ecosystems. It is important to practice sustainable harvesting techniques and to obtain wild leek from reputable sources.

Wild leek is also known by several other common names, including broadleaf wild leek, elephant garlic, and pearl onion. In some regions, it is also referred to as "ramps," which is derived from the Old English word "ramson," meaning wild garlic.

Wild leek is a good source of several essential nutrients, including vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. It is also low in calories and high in dietary fiber, making it a healthy addition to any diet.

Because wild leek is a member of the Allium family, it contains several sulfur compounds that are believed to have numerous health benefits. These compounds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties, and may help to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, wild leek has also been used for a variety of non-food purposes. In some regions, the plant has been used as a natural insect repellent, and the leaves have been used to make a dye for textiles.

Wild leek has also been used in the production of alcoholic beverages. In some regions, the plant is used to make a traditional alcoholic beverage known as "ramp wine." The wine is made by fermenting wild leek bulbs and sugar, and is said to have a unique flavor and aroma.

The plant's bulbs have also been used to make a type of vinegar known as "ramp vinegar." The vinegar is made by steeping wild leek bulbs in vinegar for several weeks, and is often used in salad dressings and marinades.

Wild leek is often considered a seasonal delicacy, as it is only available for a short period each year. The plant typically grows in the spring and early summer, and is at its peak flavor during this time. Many chefs and food enthusiasts look forward to the arrival of wild leek season each year, and use the plant in a variety of creative and innovative ways.

Despite its many uses, wild leek remains relatively unknown outside of its native regions. However, with its many culinary, medicinal, and cultural benefits, it is a plant that is definitely worth exploring. So why not add some wild leek to your next meal or try your hand at making some ramp wine or ramp vinegar? You may just discover a new favorite ingredient.

30 Wonderful Wild Leek Facts

Here are 30 facts about Wild Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum):

  1. Wild Leek is also known as Elephant Garlic due to its large bulbs.
  2. It belongs to the Allium genus, which includes onions, garlic, and chives.
  3. The scientific name Allium ampeloprasum encompasses several subspecies and varieties.
  4. Wild Leeks are native to parts of Europe and western Asia.
  5. They have naturalized in other regions, including parts of North America.
  6. The bulbs of Wild Leeks are edible and have a mild garlic flavor.
  7. The leaves of Wild Leeks are long, flat, and resemble those of lily plants.
  8. Wild Leeks produce spherical flower clusters called umbels.
  9. Each umbel can contain dozens of small star-shaped flowers.
  10. The flowers range in color from pale pink to lavender.
  11. Wild Leeks attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.
  12. They typically bloom in late spring to early summer.
  13. The leaves and bulbs emit a mild garlic scent when crushed.
  14. Wild Leeks prefer well-drained soil and full to partial sunlight.
  15. They are tolerant of various soil types, including sandy and loamy soils.
  16. In some regions, Wild Leeks are considered invasive due to their vigorous growth.
  17. The bulbs of Wild Leeks can be used in cooking similarly to garlic or onions.
  18. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium.
  19. Wild Leeks have been used in traditional medicine for their purported health benefits.
  20. The plant has been historically cultivated for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
  21. Wild Leeks reproduce primarily through seeds and bulb offsets.
  22. They can form dense colonies under favorable conditions.
  23. The plant's bulbs can reach sizes comparable to small onions.
  24. Wild Leeks are favored by foragers and are often harvested in the wild.
  25. Sustainable harvesting practices are encouraged to ensure plant populations remain healthy.
  26. In some areas, Wild Leeks are protected or regulated due to overharvesting concerns.
  27. The plant's bulbs are sometimes pickled or used in sauces and dressings.
  28. Wild Leeks are known by various regional names, reflecting their widespread distribution.
  29. They are resilient to cold temperatures and can survive freezing conditions.
  30. Wild Leeks are celebrated in culinary festivals and events in regions where they are abundant.

These facts provide a comprehensive overview of Wild Leeks, highlighting their botanical characteristics, culinary uses, ecological roles, and cultural significance.


Wild Leeks filmed at Mousehole in Cornwall on the 12th June 2024.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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