Rare wild leek produces record bloom on Anglesey

Allium ampeloprasum
Image caption The rare wild leeks grow in a verge in front of this South Stack field where llama graze

A rare wild leek, which produces 8ft (2m) tall blooms, has grown a record 84 flower heads at one of the three sites where it is found in Wales.

It is the highest count for Allium ampeloprasum, Wales' national emblem's ancestor, since being found at South Stack, Anglesey, over a decade ago.

Plant charity Plantlife said 16 flower heads were recorded there in 2002.

The leeks are also found on a roadside near Abergele, Conwy, and on Flat Holm Island in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The species, which seems to prefer mild climates and struggles slightly in Britain, is found mainly in the Channel Islands, the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall where it grows in old fields, along hedge banks, cliffs and paths, Plantlife said.

Dr Trevor Dines, of Plantlife, said the plant seemed to be doing well at South Stack, where it was growing on a roadside, because the verge was being managed well and it was being left to flower and seed before the vegetation was cut.

"The wonderful spherical flower heads of wild leek can reach over 8ft tall and it's ever so slightly mad to find them towering above you in such a wild landscape," he said.

"We're not really sure where this plant comes from originally but it often grows around ruined settlements and ancient field systems - at South Stack it's near a group of prehistoric hut circles.

"It's a slightly mysterious plant, as befits the ancestor of the national emblem of Wales."

The wild leek is closely related to big purple alliums that are commonly grown as a garden plant and were introduced hundreds of years ago - probably from the Mediterranean and possibly by the Romans - or even earlier.

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