Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Plant of the Week Wild Leeks or ramps (Allium tricoccum)

Yummy.  This native spring perennial is one of the first plants to show their oval leaves that are 4 to 9" long and 1 to 3" long.  The flowers will come along later in the early summer when the foliage has disappeared.  The bulbs of this plant are considered a spring delicacy in many parts of its range which extends from Canada to South Carolina.  It has an onion-garlic smell and taste with the garlic side being a bit stronger than the onion side. Because this plant can reproduce fairly easily from seeds or bulbets, it is often found in large clusters which makes digging a mess of wild ramps, which they are also called, easy.  The typical onion like flowers appear on a short stalk several inches tall and each flower cluster (1-2" across) has about 20 to 40 individual small yellowish to white flowers.  The plants typically remain in flower for several weeks.  This is a plant that likes dappled shade with more intense shade during the heat of the summer.  It has to have good loamy soil (no clay will do for this little gem) and it appears to tolerate somewhat acidic soils.  If you have some on your property already, the best time to transplant is in the fall and this is also the best time to seed this species. This species is being monitored in the wild because the invasive garlic mustard, which is taking over the understory of many mesic woodlands outcompetes and shades out this plant and is causing declines in the native populations.  This is a great garden plant for a whole host of reasons and deer and other mammals typically don't feed on it and it is primarily pollinated by various types of native bees. This is such a wonderful native plant that a variety of communities in the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York have festivals associated with this plant. While there is much folklore surrounding this plant perhaps the most interesting is that the city of Chicago (yes you read that correctly) was named for a large patch of wild ramps growing near Lake Michigan in the 17th century. The area was described by Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle and the plant was called shikaakwas (Chicago) by the local native Americans.   While leeks are used in a variety of ways, here is a recipe for a simple leek potato soup.

4 -6 slices of bacon
4 cups wild leeks with green still attached
5 cups red potatoes cut into small pieces
3 T flour
4 cups chicken broth (low sodium if on a restricted diet)
1 cup heavy cream (fat free will make it healthier)
pinch salt and pepper

In a large skillet fry bacon until crispy, reserve liquid and remove meat for later as a garnish if so desired
Placed leeks and potatoes in the skillet and cook on low to low-medium heat until tender.
Slowly add flour stirring continuously until flour is completely absorbed
Stir in chicken broth and simmer until hot.  Slowly add the cream and heat thoroughly then pour into a bowl and add crumbled bacon and some reserved, finely chopped wild leeks for garnish.  Serves 4 to 6 people.


  1. I've been looking for these in our woods for years, with no success. There are ramps festivals locally, so surely there must be some around here somewhere. Your description and photo should make it a little easier now and, if I do find them, I now have what looks like a delicious ramps recipe.to try.

  2. A couple years ago I planted a hundred bulbs or so on my land in Laurel Co. Ky., So far they seem to be happy with their new home.

    Hopefully, in another year or two I will be able to harvest a few. They are truly a rare treat that is mostly unknown in this area.

    First year's growth: http://bluegrasscarnivores.com/ramps/IMG_0006sm.jpg

    I am anxious to see how they look like this year!

    1. Second year growth:

      Loamy soil
      Hardwood canopy
      Base of west facing hillside
      Moist but drains well

  3. Has anyone bought them online before? I found some for sale here: http://wildwestvirginiaramps.com/wild-west-virginia-ramps-for-sale/ but I was wondering if anyone else had good experience with that?

    1. http://www.rampfarm.com/

      Bought both plants and seeds this year. Prices very reasonable. Plants were healthy. A bit on the small side but growing very vigorously now. Order very early in January to reserve. Recommended and will be ordering more next year.