I harvested what thought was wild garlic today, April 15th, but I have a doubt now. I heard the plant can look at lot like meadow saffron and lilys of the valley, both of which are potentially deadly. Here is a picture I took today in Edinburgh, Scotland and I should also indicate that these leaves did have a good smell of garlic.

enter image description here

If you cannot identify it from such a distance I will go back this week and take better pictures.

I took a picture of another plant that I thought was wild garlic (a few hundred meters from the picture above):

enter image description here

  • Where are you in the world? - BTW, this looks more like wild leek. But you're right: Don't eat it without a POSITIVE identification. You may want to wait until it flowers and then repost this question with photos of the flowers.
    – Jurp
    Apr 15, 2018 at 16:30
  • @Jurp I took this picture today in Edinburgh, Scotland.
    – Aegis
    Apr 15, 2018 at 16:31
  • I should also indicated that these leaves did have a good smell of garlic...
    – Aegis
    Apr 15, 2018 at 16:50

4 Answers 4


The garlic smell is a pretty good initial indicator: the main danger when foraging for Allium ursinum is lily of the valley, which doesn’t smell garlicky.

If you want to double-check, look at the cross-section of the stem. It should be triangular to half-moon shaped (sorry for the somewhat blurry pictures):enter image description here

The underside of the leaves will be matte while lily of the valley has roughly the same color and sheen on both sides. When you look at the general appearance, wild garlic has softer leaves which tend to bend over a bit once they get close to the final size.

Wild garlic grows out of little bulbs, but the connected part is in the soil. Above ground, it will appear as separate leaves (lily of the valley has a common stem above soil):

enter image description here

And a patch as grown as yours will already have formedflower buds, which you can see if you push the leaves aside:

enter image description here Once the flowers open, an id is pretty straightforward - and you can probably smell them from a distance.

I enlarged and checked your photos and marked flower buds:

enter image description here
enter image description here

Just a quick remark re. confusing wild garlic and lily of the valleym The young wild garlic leaves appear a lot narrower and upright, which makes them much more similar to lily of the valley. Once they start to droop, the differences become more obvious. This picture was taken about two weeks ago and I’d estimate yours looked like that about three weeks ago: enter image description here

  • I looked at the stem (cutting the leaf in half) and it seems triangular.
    – Aegis
    Apr 15, 2018 at 18:02
  • @Aegis sorry for the “half-post”, I had to snap a few pictures for you.
    – Stephie
    Apr 15, 2018 at 19:49
  • Thank you so much for the detailed answer! I will go back and take a look later this week :)
    – Aegis
    Apr 15, 2018 at 21:01
  • thanks for the latest picture! So from what I gather, you are pretty positive that what's on my pictures are not Lilys of the Valley? I'll go take another look tomorrow just to be sure. Also, what about Colchicums?
    – Aegis
    Apr 15, 2018 at 23:13
  • @Aegis having had wild garlic in the garden for nearly two decades, I am absolutely sure that you found it. (And I am usually super careful with an id of edible vs. poisonous plants.) Colchicum grows on meadows and has tough leaves that form a “whirl”. It’s even more different than lily of the valley.
    – Stephie
    Apr 16, 2018 at 8:18

Here you can see Lily of the Valley (left) and Wild garlic (right) in the same photo. As you can see, Lily of the Valley usually has two leafs, one wrapping the other on the stem, while Wild garlic only has one leaf.

enter image description here

Image found at Landleys kök (in Swedish).


Yes, it seems wild garlic (Allium ursinum).

Take always one leaf and verify that it has a stalk. Than it is ok, and take the next one. Unfortunately poison plants are similar (e.g. Lily of the valley: Convallaria majalis, which growth also on the same place, on the same period, and Colchicum). So be very careful. They are deadly with very small portions (and every year someone did last supper with such plants).

Smell it is not a good indicator, after you touch the first Allium ursinum: all thing you touch it will have garlic smell.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer! What do you mean by verify that it has a stalk? How is that excluding the other plants (lily of the valley, etc)?
    – Aegis
    Apr 15, 2018 at 17:54
  • 1
    Allium ursinum has a well defined leaf stalk. The other two have leaves without stalk (the leaves merges with flower stalk). Apr 15, 2018 at 18:20
  • Then it must be Allium ursinum. The stalk extended from the leaf to the ground, from what I remember when picking them up
    – Aegis
    Apr 15, 2018 at 18:25
  • Yes. It is most (or all) Allium ursinum. Your photo are typical. Just check carefully: some other species could be mixed into wild garlic. Apr 15, 2018 at 19:14

Possibly, if there's a garlicky smell to the leaves, but it is difficult to tell them apart at this time of year, when they're not in flower. However, that patch in the first photograph appears to be about to flower - there are stems sticking up with obvious flower buds on, but they do not look typical of an allium flower bud, more like Convallaria in fact - but those leaves do not have a garlic scent. I'd just pop back sometime later in the week or next week and check those flowers out; as soon as you see them, you'll know for sure. This might help though http://paulkirtley.co.uk/2012/lily-of-the-valley-convallaria-majalis-ramsons-allium-ursinum/

  • Great link. Have to disagree with the flwer buds, though: see my answer where I highlighted the buds from OP’s photos. They are just like they are supposed to be. If you mean the other type of flower stems, they seem to belong to something entirely different.
    – Stephie
    Apr 15, 2018 at 20:50

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