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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Geyer's Onion - Allium geyeri var. geyeri

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G4G5T4
State Rank: S3
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
S3 SOC: This variety of Allium geyeri appears to be found in limited numbers with a limited distribution in Montana.
  • Details on Status Ranking and Review
    Geyer's Onion (Allium geyeri var. geyeri) Conservation Status Review
    Review Date = 09/23/2016
    View State Conservation Rank Criteria
    Population Size

    ScoreE - 2,500 - 10,000 individuals

    Range Extent

    ScoreF - 20,000-200,000 sq km (~8,000-80,000 sq mi)

    Area of Occupancy

    ScoreD - 6-25 4-km2 grid cells

    Number of Populations

    ScoreB - 6 - 20

    Number of Occurrences or Percent Area with Good Viability / Ecological Integrity

    ScoreC - Few (4-12) occurrences with excellent or good viability or ecological integrity

    Environmental Specificity

    ScoreC - Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce

    Long-term Trend

    ScoreG - Relatively Stable (<=10% change)


    ScoreG - Relatively Stable (<=10% change)


    ScoreD - Low

    CommentThreat categories include: Housing & urban areas, Roads & railroads.

General Description
Bulbs: Ovoid to narrowly so, usually in groups (Lesica 2012). Inner coats whitish, outer coats fibrous and netlike surrounding one or more bulbs (Hitchcock et al. 1969).

Leaves: Linear and grass-like (Lesica 2012), mostly shorter than scape (Cronquist et al. 1977), 2 or 3 with each scape, 1-3 mm across and channeled (Lesica 2012), concave to convex in X-S, persistent (Hitchcock et al. 1969).

Inflorescence: Scapes about 10 – 50 cm long (Lesica 2012), circular or slightly angled in X-S (Hitchcock et al. 1969). Umbel a half sphere with about 10 – 25 (or more) flowers. Bracts 2 or 3 (Lesica 2012), mostly separate, ovate or lanceolate with protracted point (Cronquist et al. 1977), mostly 1-nerved (Hitchcock et al. 1969). Pedicels subequal (Cronquist et al. 1977), 5-12 mm in length (Lesica 2012), usually less than twice the perianth length, becoming inflexible and spreading in fruit (Hitchcock et al. 1969).

(P. Lesica's contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Diagnostic Characteristics
Variety geyeri has flowers that lack bulbils; variety tenerum has flowers that become sessile bulbils, which then reproduce (adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Species Range
Montana Range


Range Comments
Widespread in e WA, in the lower Clearwater River region of ID, MT, ne NV, n UT, s WY south to w TX and s AZ (Hitchcock et al. 1969). Known from Flathead County in Montana (Lesica 2012).

(P. Lesica's contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 9

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Moist, open slopes, meadows, or stream banks in mountains; 200--4000 m (FNA 2002). For Montana: Valleys and grasslands that are moist in spring in Flathead County (Lesica 2012).

(P. Lesica's contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)
Predicted Suitable Habitat Model

This species has a Predicted Suitable Habitat Model available.

To learn how these Models were created see

The following animal species have been reported as pollinators of this plant species or its genus where their geographic ranges overlap: Bombus bifarius, Bombus centralis, Bombus flavifrons, Bombus huntii, Bombus melanopygus, Bombus sylvicola, Bombus occidentalis, and Bombus bohemicus (Macior 1974, Thorp et al. 1983, Colla and Dumesh 2010, Koch et al. 2012, Miller-Struttmann and Galen 2014, Williams et al. 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Flowers: Tepals 5-7 mm in length (Lesica 2012), ovate to lanceolate, blunt to acuminate, often with tiny teeth on margin and a papillate midrib, erect, pink to white, hardening to permanently envelope the capsule. Stamens generally shorter than tepals. Ovary with 6 low (= 0.5 mm), rounded knobs next to style. Stigma entire to barely 3-lobed.

Fruit: Seeds shiny black (Hitchcock et al. 1969).

(P. Lesica's contribution adapted from Lesica 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX.)

Native Alliums are used in garden borders and rockeries. They are seldom grown, however, because common ornamentals have more intensely colored or larger flowers (Hitchcock et al. 1994; Cronquist et al. 1994).

Old World species of Allium are grown in the United States for flavoring and food: the common onion (Allium cepa), garlic (A. sativum), leek (A. porrum), and chives (A. schoenoprasum) (Cronquist et al. 2004). Native Allium species are used medicinally and for cooking to add flavor (Moerman 1998; Harrington 1967).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Colla, S.R. and S. Dumesh. 2010. The bumble bees of southern Ontario: notes on natural history and distribution. Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario 141: 39-68.
    • Cronquist, A., A. H. Holmgren, N. H. Holmgren, J. L. Reveal, and P. K. Holmgren. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Volume 6: The Monocotyledons. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. 584 pp.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2002. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Vol. 26. Magnoliophyta: Liliidae: Liliales and Orchidales. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press. xxvi + 723 pp.
    • Harrington, H.D. 1967. Edible native plants of the Rocky Mountains. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. 392 p.
    • Hitchcock, C. L., A. Cronquist, M. Ownbey, and J. W. Thompson. 1969. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part I: Vascular Cryptogams, Gymnosperms and Monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 pp.
    • Koch, J., J. Strange, and P. Williams. 2012. Bumble bees of the western United States. Washington, DC: USDA Forest Service, Pollinator Partnership. 143 p.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Macior, L.M. 1974. Pollination ecology of the Front Range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Melanderia 15: 1-59.
    • Miller-Struttmann, N.E. and C. Galen. 2014. High-altitude multi-taskers: bumble bee food plant use broadens along an altitudinal productivity gradient. Oecologia 176:1033-1045.
    • Moerman, D.E. 1998. Native American ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press, Inc. 927 p.
    • Thorp, R.W., D.S. Horning, and L.L. Dunning. 1983. Bumble bees and cuckoo bumble bees of California (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Bulletin of the California Insect Survey 23:1-79.
    • Williams, P., R. Thorp, L. Richardson, and S. Colla. 2014. Bumble Bees of North America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 208 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Choi, H.J. and J.H. Cota-Sánchez. 2010. A taxonomic revision of Allium (Alliaceae) in the Canadian prairie provinces. Botany 88(9):787-809.
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Citation for data on this website:
Geyer's Onion — Allium geyeri var. geyeri.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from