A small bulbous herb with six petaled purple tube-like flowers. Like most of the other approximately 70 genera and 800 species of the Amaryllidàceae, the Society Garlic is a tropical plant, in this case a native of Africa. It is classified as a "tender perennial" by gardeners in temperate climates.
Despite the garlic scent of its evergreen foliage and its superficial similarity to members of the genus Allium the two are related only distantly from a phylogenetic standpoint. The spring flowering garden bulb, the narcissus (Narcissus pseùdo-narcissus) is its most familar relative.
The common name for this plant originated from the belief that it could be used as a substitute for garlic without risk of offending social companions later in the evening. However, it is grown mainly for ornamental purposes and some authorities caution against its consumption, stating it may cause vomiting.
History and Lore
Taylor's Guide to Herbs states that the Zulus of South Africa grow this plant around their homes to repel snakes--a worthwhile form of gardening in an area where black mombas are common.