Allium stipitatum

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Persian shallot
Allium stipitatum 'Mt Everest'1.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Amaryllidaceae
Subfamily: Allioideae
Genus: Allium
Species: A. stipitatum
Binomial name
Allium stipitatum

Allium hirtifolium Boissier

Allium stipitatum, Persian shallot is a species of Allium (the onions or garlics). The epithet stipitatum means 'with a little stalk'[2] (referring to the ovary). Some sources regard A. hirtifolium as the same species,[1] others treat A. stipitatum and A. hirtifolium as similar but separate species.[3] Treating them as the same, A. stipitatum occurs from Turkey to Tien Shan in central Asia. It is a typical 'drumstick allium', with more-or-less spherical flower heads on tall stems, and as such has often been confused with other similar species.[2] In Iran, the species is used for food, and has been referred to by the English name Persian shallot.[4]


A. stipitatum grows from bulbs, 3 to 6 cm in diameter, which have blackish, paper-like tunics. The 4–6 basal leaves are broad, green to greyish green in colour, and variably hairy. The leaves are normally withered by the time the bulb flowers. Flowers are borne on stems which are 60 to 150 cm tall and are arranged in an umbel (a structure where the individual flowers are attached to a central point). The umbels are some 8 to 12 cm in diameter, relatively small compared to the tall stems, hence the description 'drumstick allium'. Individual flowers, of which there are many, are a typical allium shape, with a superior ovary and six tepals of a lilac to purple colour, around 2.5 to 5 cm long; white forms are known. Plants are described as growing in rocky slopes and fields at around 1,500 to 2,500 m.[3][5]

Use in Persian cuisine[edit]

Bulbs of Allium stipitatum are eaten in Iran, where they are called موسیر (pronounced mooseer) or in English 'Persian shallot'. They grow wild across the Zagros Mountains in different provinces of Iran.[4] Most of those eaten are harvested from the wild, sliced, dried, and sold at markets. Buyers will often soak the shallots for a number of days then boil them to obtain a milder flavour. They are often crushed and mixed with yogurt. Iranians enjoy yogurt in this way, especially in restaurants and kebab-saras where just kebabs are served.[citation needed]

Iranian plants are among those referred to as A. hirtifolium, when distinguished from A. stipitatum.[6]

Ornamental use[edit]

Mathew describes this species as "stately", and the easiest to grow of the tall alliums, flowering in about four years when grown from seed.[5] In keeping with the wild habitat of the species, when grown for ornament, well-drained, sunny conditions are recommended.[3] Care is needed in placing all the drumstick alliums, since their withered leaves are unattractive at flowering time. Davies notes that "as a bonus numerous offsets are produced";[2] this has the potential to make the species invasive when grown in borders.

Medicinal properties and health effects[edit]

Allium stipitatum is used as a medicinal plant in Central Asia. Extracts of the bulbs of the plant, which showed activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, were found to contain several pyridine-N-oxide derivatives. Analysis of the cut plant using a mass spectrometer equipped with a DART ion source showed the presence of N-hydroxypyridine-2-thione, also known as pyrithione, a compound which is moderately cytotoxic toward human tumour cell lines, and highly active against fungi and Gram-negative bacteria. Pyrithione-containing plant extracts are used in herbal medicine for treatment of malaria. Zinc pyrithione is used in commercial anti-dandruff shampoos.[7][8][9][10]


  1. ^ a b "Allium stipitatum", World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved 2012-02-27 
  2. ^ a b c Davies 1992, p. 137
  3. ^ a b c Davies, Dilys (1992), Alliums : the ornamental onions, London: B.T. Batsford (in association with the Hardy Plant Society), ISBN 978-0-7134-7030-7 , p. 101f. and p. 137f.
  4. ^ a b Ebrahimia, R.; Zamani, Z. & Kash, A. (2009), "Genetic diversity evaluation of wild Persian shallot (Allium hirtifolium Boiss.) using morphological and RAPD markers", Scientia Horticulturae 119 (4): 345–351, doi:10.1016/j.scienta.2008.08.032 
  5. ^ a b Mathew, Brian (1978), The Larger Bulbs, London: B.T. Batsford (in association with the Royal Horticultural Society), ISBN 978-0-7134-1246-8 , p. 32
  6. ^ Davies 1992, p. 101
  7. ^ O’Donnell, G.; Poeschl, R.; Zimhony, O.; Gunaratnam, M.; Moreira, J.B.C.; Neidle, S.; Evangelopoulos, D.; Bhakta, S.; Malkinson, J.P.; Boshoff, H.I.; Lenaerts, A. & Gibbons, S. (2009), "Bioactive pyridine-N-oxide disulfides from Allium stipitatum", J. Nat. Prod. 72 (3): 360–365, doi:10.1021/np800572r 
  8. ^ Kusterer, J.; Vogt, A. & Keusgen, M. (2010), "Isolation and Identification of a New Cysteine Sulfoxide and Volatile Sulfur Compounds from Allium Subgenus Melanocrommyum", J. Agric. Food Chem. 58: 520–526, doi:10.1021/jf902294c 
  9. ^ Block, E. (2010), Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science, Royal Society of Chemistry, ISBN 0-85404-190-7 
  10. ^ Block, E.; Dane, A.J. & Cody, R.B. (2011), "Crushing Garlic and Slicing Onions: Detection of Sulfenic Acids and Other Reactive Organosulfur Intermediates from Garlic and Other Alliums Using Direct Analysis in Real Time-Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS)", Phosphorus, Sulfur, Silicon and the Related Elements 186 (5): 1085–1093, doi:10.1080/10426507.2010.507728