Wild Onion Poisonous Look-Alikes [What You Need to Know]

Wild onions are a delicious treat that you can forage in most places around the western part of America. However, you must be careful with look-alikes when you’re out and about.

So, what are these wild onion poisonous look-alikes? 

The death camas, also known as the death lily is the most common look-alike. As the name suggests, death camas are deadly and should be avoided. You can differentiate between death camas and wild onions by looking closely at the type of flower, roots, and type of leaf.

In this post, we’ll talk about all that. Lets dig in.

How to Identify The Wild Onion Poisonous Look-Alikes?

death camas

There are a few things to lookout for. Here are a few of them:

  • They have a white flower
  • They have flowers coming up though the stem, not just the top
  • No blue tint in the leaves
  • Feels like grass – slightly abrasive
  • The leaves have a v-shape that runs through the entire leaves – you can feel this and you should be able to easily fold the leaves
  • The camas has a round shape
  • Does not have a strong onion smell

If you notice three or four of these characteristics, I’d stay away from the plant. Where there are death camas, there are typically wild onions and other wild edible plants

So, what are some of the aspects of wild onions that make them unique?

How to Identify Wild Onions?

The wild onion has unique characteristics that make it the wild onion. These characteristics include:

  • Strong onion smell
  • Flowers come up from the top only
  • Blue tint in the leaves
  • The leaves have a u-shape that runs through the entire leaves – this makes it so the leaves won’t easily fold
  • Feels fairly smooth when you touch it
  • The onion is more oval shaped
  • The onion has a purple tint
  • Inside the leaf is not hollow

If you’ve noticed that most of these conditions are met, while most of the death camas conditions are not met, chances are you have yourself a wild onion. 

The video below provides a great visual aid:

Are Wild Onions Edible?

Wild onions are edible and very nutritious. I typically use them as a seasoning rather than the main vegetable dish, but each to his own.

Wild onions are high in vitamins K, C and A, with hints of minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

You will need to rinse the wild onions thoroughly before eating it. Additionally, it’s always good practice to make sure the location you’re picking it out from is safe. 

Many neighborhood areas use herbicides for wild onions since they’re considered weeds. Don’t worry though, they’re edible weeds.

How to Use Wild Onions?

Wild onions can be a full meal if you have enough of them – given that you are eating other essential nutrients and minerals throughout the day.

But, often it’s just used as a seasoning in some soup or salad. 

You can eat the entire plant, including the bulb, flower, leaves, and stem. The tastiest part will be the bulb, but you can definitely eat the rest of the plant given that the plant is cleaned well.

I often use wild onion as an addition to other plants and flowers I forage.

Types of Wild Onions

All wild onions are edible, but knowing the different types will let you know what to expect when eating it when to expect it to grow, and of course, just becoming generally more knowledgable. 

Wild Garlic

The scientific name of wild garlic is Allium Canadense. This is the classic wild onion.

All parts are edible and it has a distinct onion smell when you uproot it.

Spring Onion

The scientific name is Allium tricoccum. This onion is the first to grow in the Spring. 

You can find it in damp forest-like environments. The stem will change red farther down the stem. 

This onion has the strongest smell and taste. I would not recommend eating mouthfuls of this unless it’s necessary. It will not be pleasant.


The scientific name is Allium cepa. These are grown in Asia. They have colored bulbs, unlike the other two. 

Additionally, Shallots can grow huge onions as well, sometimes half a foot in diameter.

Last Words

Death camas are the plants you’ll want to look out for. The biggest indicator is they don’t smell distinctly like onions. 

Try to pay close attention to these characteristics when picking out wild onions and reference some foraging guides whenever picking things up to eat.

You will also need to thoroughly wash all food you get from the ground. Think about all the insects, crap, and animals that could have touched it.

Taking all these precautions, you will be safe when foraging food in the wilderness. Happy foraging!

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