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. Let’s dig in.

How to Identify The Wild Onion Poisonous Look-Alikes?

death camas

Identifying this plant is an essential wilderness skill. There are a few things to look out for. Here are a few of them:

  • They have a white flower
  • They have flowers coming up through 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 have 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. I recommend using your eyes to help distinguish one from the other. It is much easier and safer then trying them out!

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

How to Identify Wild Onions?

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.

Remember, the best way to make sure you’ve correctly identified a wild onion is by tasting it. It should taste like an onion and usually have more of a mild than overpowering aroma.

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?

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 in 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

Wild Garlic

Wild garlic is an annual and biennial plant that belongs to the Allium species of bulbous plants, which also includes onions. It grows in woodlands with a preference for calcareous soils throughout Europe and North America but can withstand other soil types too.

Wild garlic grows in tufts and can grow to around 70 cm high, often with a flowering head of white or pale purple flowers on top during springtime, known as ‘ruffles.’

It’s leaves are hollow tubes that ovate shaped at the base, narrowing into lanceolate blades towards its apex positioned above elevated bulbils, from which the species gets its other name, ‘crow garlic’.

It’s strong flavor comes when leaves and stems are crushed or bruised. Wild garlic is full of antioxidants such as quercetin and ajoene, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and antiseptic properties. Additionally, it is a good source of vitamins C and B6 as well as pro-vitamin A carotenes.

Spring Onion

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.

Spring onion, also known as allium tricoccum or “stinking rush,” are edible bulb plants found throughout North America and Europe. They sprout in grassy areas low to the ground from a white bulblet underground.

Wild onions have a mild onion flavor, making them a tasty addition to many dishes, as well as raw salads and sandwiches. They are also used medicinally for treating joint pain or even enhancing the immune system when consumed regularly in food form.

To find wild onions, look for grassy areas with small white bulbs poking out from underneath. Carefully dig down and scoop up the bulb using your hands or a shovel if needed to remove it intact.

Consume them as soon as possible after gathering them since they have high water content – perfect for those hot summer days!

If desired, you can preserve Wild Onions by drying them whole in a cool area away from direct light until the bulb is papery dry, but this removes much of its flavor.

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Use these flavorful bulbs within a few months since they will start to spoil quickly in storage due to their high moisture content!

Overall, Wild Onions are an excellent and flavorful addition to many recipes, and they can be a great way to naturally boost your immune system through healthy eating habits.



Shallots, or Allium Cepa, are a type of onion that is grown and harvested in a similar fashion to regular onions. It has an elongated shape as opposed to the rounder form of other types of onions, and it also has two separate bulbs that grow together united at their necks!

Shallots are mild in flavor compared to traditional onion varieties; they provide subtle sweetness without making your food too “oniony” tasting – perfect for those who don’t want a strong onion taste in their meals. They are often used as the base of dishes or to garnish salads and sandwiches for added flavor!

To find shallots at the grocery store, look for medium-sized bulbs with thin necks – these will provide more flavor than larger specimens. Store them in a dark, dry place away from direct sunlight for optimal freshness and up to two weeks of shelf life!

Overall, shallots provide subtle sweetness to recipes without overdoing it on the ‘oniony’ flavor as other varieties do. They are a great way to add subtle layers of flavor to any dish, and they store well for up two weeks when stored correctly!


Last Words

Death camas are the plants you’ll want to look out for, as they are one of the wild onion poisonous look-alikes. 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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