Ramsons, or wild garlic, is known in many northern European countries by a direct translation of its scientific name – Allium ursinum or bear garlic.

It is easily identified by its broad strap-like leaves, its bundles of white flowers, and of course, by its garlicky smell – especially obvious if the leaves are crushed.

This plant is edible (but can be confused with other, poisonous, plants such as lily of the valley – so be careful):

  • use the leaves in salads, in cheese sandwiches, etc. but do wash them first. They can also be used as a herb, boiled as a vegetable, and used in pesto
  • the flowers are edible
  • the roots can be salted and eaten as a salad onion (eastern Europe and Russia)
  • the bulbs are rather like regular garlic

It carpets woodlands with damp slightly acid soil (top photo) and is found frequently alongside roads, either under trees (below) or in ditches – more often on the shady side of a road.

Allium ursinum

The floral show is usually at its best in late April – early May, depending on the weather – a cold late spring will delay it.

Allium ursinum 1120723
Typical of members of the lily family, wild garlic flowers have six petals
Allium ursinum
The seedheads of wild garlic are much less conspicuous than the carpet of white flowers that precedes them.

As with many other plants, you can record something else alongside the ramsons – or at least, growing on it.  These orange patches on the underside (left) and upperside of the leaf are signs of fungal infestation by garlic rust or garlic smut Puccinia sessilis.

And those broad leaves make wonderful places for invertebrates to bask in the sun:

Green Shieldbug – Palomena prasina 1160736
Green shield-bugs Palomena prasina may think they are well-camouflaged, but they can be easy to spot, and closely approached if you move slowly.
Andrena haemorrhoa 1160755
This female Andrena haemorrhoa solitary bee was a little more tricky (there are over 200 solitary bee species in the UK), and probably best admired through a pair of close-focusing binoculars.  Some species of bee can be identified from photographs, but contact the Bumblebee Conservation Trust if you want to learn more.

Don’t forget to record what you see