Nature on our doorsteps: Three-cornered Leeks

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

At a quick glance, the pretty Three-cornered Leek is very similar to a white Bluebell. It has long thin green leaves and a head of drooping white bells. 

These bells, however, have a thin green line running vertically down the petals. Also, instead of the smooth tubular stem of the Bluebell, the stem of the Three-cornered Leek has three very distinctive angular sides, giving the plant its name.   

White Bluebells have clear white petals and tubular stems 1

White Bluebells have clear white petals and tubular stems

This plant is a native of the Mediterranean. It was brought to England in the 18th Century and from there it was brought to Ireland.

The plant belongs to the Allium (onion) group of plants and its flavour is said to be milder than other onions or garlic. 

The leaves, roots and flowers can therefore be used raw in salads and as garnishes for soups. Bluebells, on the other hand, belong to the Hyacinth family and are not edible. 

The Three-cornered Leek is listed in Irish law as being a Non-native Invasive Species. 

The bells of Three cornered Leek have a vertical green line and the stem is sharply angled 1

The bells of Three-cornered Leek have a vertical green line, and the stem is sharply angled

This is because it grows very vigorously, invading and taking over wild habitats.

While Three-corned Leeks may continue to grow in our gardens, it is an offense to plant them in the wild, or to cause them to ‘escape’ from our gardens. This includes disposing or dumping unwanted plants along roadsides, sunny hedgerows, riverbanks, or in our parks. 

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