Chives is the common name of Allium schoenoprasum, the smallest species of the edible onions. A perennial plant, it is native to Europe, Asia and North America. A. schoenoprasum is the only species of Allium native to both the New and the Old Worlds.
The name of the species derives from the Greek skhoínos (sedge) and práson (leek). Its English name, chives, derives from the French word cive, from cepa, the Latin word for onion.
Chives are a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plant, growing to 30–50 cm tall. The bulbs are slender, conical, 2–3 cm long and 1 cm broad, and grow in dense clusters from the roots. The scapes (or stems) are hollow and tubular, up to 50 cm long, and 2–3 mm in diameter, with a soft texture, although, prior to the emergence of a flower, they may appear stiffer than usual. The flowers are pale purple, and star-shaped with six petals, 1–2 cm wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence of 10-30 together; before opening, the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract. The seeds are produced in a small three-valved capsule, maturing in summer. The herb flowers from April to May in the southern parts of its habitat zones and in June in the northern parts.
Chives are the only species of Allium native to both the Old World and the New World. Sometimes, the plants found in North America are classified as A. schoenoprasum var. sibiricum, although this is disputed. Differences among specimens are significant. One example was found in northern Maine growing solitary, instead of in clumps, also exhibiting dingy grey flowers.
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