by Stephen Mifsud
   19 Jun 2019      ()
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Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   (Round-Headed Leek)

Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon  (AMARYLLIDACEAE .) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands at or after year 2000.

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Profile Date July-2006 (last update: 12-Jan-2019)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (July-2006) Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon retrieved from on 2019-Jun-19

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalonTausch
Published in Pl. Nov. Ratisbon. (Konigl. Baier. Bot. Ges.) 2: 256 (1828)

Synonyms :

Basionym or principal synonym: Allium rollii Terracc.
Full list of synonyms : [ Euro+Med ]   [ PlantList ]   [ IPNI ]   [ Catalogue of Life ]

Plant Family :

Amaryllidaceae The Daffodil or Amaryllis Family 27 Amaryllidaceae species recorded from Malta.
Jaume St.-Hil

English name(s) :

Round-Headed Leek, Ball-headed Onion

Maltese name(s) :

Tewm Muswaf, Tewm Selvaġġ Muswaf

Status for Malta :

Indigenous. Present on the Maltese islands before man

Frequency :

Very Common     Common     Frequent     Scarce     Rare     Very rare     Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: GEOPHYTE (Bulbous/Rhizomatous plants)
Germination [info]: Monocotyledon

Legal Protection [link]:

Not Protected by Law (LN200/2011 or LN311/2006)

Red List (1989) :

This species has a threatened status and is listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands

Flowering Time :


Colour of Flowers:

Red or Violet

Habitat :

Arid rocky places and exposed garigue

Remarks :

The species Allium amethystinum Tausch which is also reported from same habitat and localities is likely a misidentification for Allium sphaerocephalon. Further investigation is required to verify this or the improbable possibility of having both. The populations flowering in July with small wine-red inflorecences, growing in arid exposed garigue most in the north and northwest of Malta have been also ascribed to Allium amethystinum but from a careful inspection of some specimens, they were identified by Stephen Mifsud as Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon. Both species are morphologically similar. The subspecies arvense which is larger, have white to green flowers and mostly occurs on the south and west coast of Gozo was reported for the first time by Michael Briffa in the late nineties. The plants growing in Malta appear to be particularly smaller and further investigation may reveal interesting findings.

Species Description and Distribution

Habitat in Europe:

Cultivated ground and rocky places

Preferred habitat in Malta:

Arid rocky places and exposed garigue

Botanical Description:

Bulbs 1·5-2 cm in diameter, subglobose; outer tunics membranous; bulblets absent or few, yellowish. Stem 20-120 cm, often reddish in upper part. Leaves 3-7, up to 50 cm × 8 mm, linear, fistular, canaliculate, sheathing the lower 1/4-1/3 of the stem, usually withered at anthesis. Spathe 2-7 cm, 1-valved, long-beaked, caducous. Umbel 2·5-6·5 cm in diameter, subglobose, many-flowered; pedicels 10-25 mm at anthesis, the central ones sometimes up to 50 mm in fruit, often reddish. Perianth cylindrical; segments purple, the outer 3-4·5 × 1-1·8 mm, narrowly oblong or oblong-elliptical, usually longer and narrower than the inner, obtuse or truncate, smooth. Stamens exserted, ciliate below; outer 3 filaments 4·5-6 mm, simple, the inner 3 with the basal lamina slightly wider than the inner segments and shorter than or equalling the central cusp, the lateral cusps 1½ or more times as long as the central cusp. Perianth and pedicels smooth, without papillae. Capsule c. 4 mm.

Chromosome number:

2n=16, 24, 32

Distributional range:

C. & E. Mediterranean region, extending to S.E. Bulgaria

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):

Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):

Albania, Bulgaria, Crete, Greece, Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), ex-Jugoslavia, Sicily and/or Malta

Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(Euro+Med Checklist, 2017) - Country codes

AE(G) Al Bu Cr Cy Gr It Ju Si Tu(A)

Images (10 images)
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-0.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-1.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-2.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-3.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-4.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-5.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-6.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-7.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-8.
   Allium sphaerocephalon subsp. sphaerocephalon   -   Image Code: ALLSP-9.

Links & Further info

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Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



The Plant List


Vienna Virt. Hb.





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