Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Keever's Onion - Allium keeverae   D.B. Poind, Weakley, & P.J. Williams
Members of Allium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Family Alliaceae
AuthorD.B. Poind, Weakley, & P.J. Williams
DistributionOccurs only in the Brushy Mountains of Alexander and Wilkes counties. This represents the entire range of the species, which was only described in 2017. Previously it had been considered a part of A. cuthbertii.

As mentioned above, this is an NC endemic species.
AbundanceObviously, extremely rare within the state and Piedmont. However, the NC NHP database lists 14 records, and it does occur on most of the Brushy Mountain peaks that contain exposed granitic domes/outcrops. Thus, within this small area, it is actually fairly common, and is therefore given a State and Global Rank of S2 and G2, rather than S1 and G1. It is listed as a State Threatened species.
HabitatEven though this species grows essentially on granitic domes -- technically in the thin soil around the margins of the rock -- the soils it favors are circumneutral, owing to the presence of some mafic minerals within the felsic granitic rock. It tends to occur most often where there is a bit of seepage over the soil mats, though high moisture does not seem to be required.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June, and fruits in June and July.
IdentificationThis is the Piedmont's most beautiful species of Allium, when in bloom. It has a typical onion stem, with a handful of narrow basal leaves (actually at the lowest part of the stem) that can grow over 1 foot long but less than 1 inch wide. The umbel that tops the 1.5-2 foot tall stem is erect (as opposed to nodding) and consists of several dozen light to medium pink flowers, typically blooming simultaneously. Each flower is about 1/2-inch wide, and a flowering umbel may be 3-4 inches across, about the size of a pink baseball! Within its tiny range, it should not be confused with any other species, as species such as A. canadense and the exotic A. vineale contain fewer flowers in the umbel, and few of these flowers tend to bloom at the same time. This latter species has rounded leaves that are hollow at the base. If you are able to visit one of these granitic domes in the Brushies, a visit in the latter part of May can yield a stunning floral display of dozens of these rare plants in bloom.
Taxonomic CommentsUntil early in this century, this species was subsumed within A. cuthbertii, a species now no longer considered as present in the state, being found from SC southward. By the beginning of the century, it became clear to NC botanists that the Brushy Mountains form was a different taxon, and best treated as a full species. It thus went unnamed until 2017. (It never was named as a variety or subspecies of A. cuthbertii.)

Other Common Name(s)Striped Garlic (the named given by the NC NHP). As Weakley et al. (2017) described the species, it should be given strong weight to use the common name used by one of those authors; Weakley (2018) names it as Keever's Onion, as does NatureServe.
State RankS2 *
Global RankG2
State StatusT
US Status
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