Allium cepa L.

Last updated: 06 April 2015

Scientific Name

Allium cepa L.


Allium cepa var aggregatum G.Don, Allium angolense Baker, Allium aobanum Araki, Allium ascalonicum auct., Allium cepaeum St.-Lag., Allium commune Noronha, Allium cumaria Buch.-Ham. ex Wall. [Invalid], Allium esculentum Salisb., Allium napus Pall. ex Kunth, Allium nigritanum A.Chev. [Invalid], Allium pauciflorum Willd. ex Ledeb., Allium salota Dostál, Ascalonicum sativum P.Renault, Cepa alba P.Renault, Cepa esculenta Gray, Cepa pallens P.Renault, Cepa rubra P.Renault, Cepa vulgaris Garsault [Invalid], Kepa esculenta Raf., Porrum cepa (L.) Rchb. [1].

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Bawang merah, bawang kecil, bawang besar [2]
English Onion, common onion, shallot onion [2]
China Yang chon [3]
India Venkayam, irulli (Tamil) [3]
Indonesia Bawang merah, bawang beureum, bawang bombay [2] brambang [3]
Brunei Bawang besar [2]
Philippines Sibuyas tagalog, bauang pula (Tagalog); lasona (Iloko) [2]
Vietnam H[af]nh t[aa]y, h[af]nh c[ur], h[af]nh t[aw]m [2]
Thailand Horn farang, horn hua yai (Central); [2] hua hawm [3]
Laos Hoom bwàx, bwàx fàlangx [2]
Cambodia Khtüm krâhââm, khtiim barang [2]
France Echalote [2]
Papua New Guinea Lip anian, anian (Pidgin) [2].

Geographical Distributions

Allium cepa probably originated from central Asia, but nowhere truly wild. Cultivated all over the world; cultivar (cv.) group Aggregatum (shallot) predominates in the tropical lowland of South-East Asia, but cv. group Common Onion is grown in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and Thailand. [2]

Botanical Description

A. cepa is a biennial herb that is grown as an annual, up to 100 cm tall. The mature bulb can grow up to 15 cm in diametre. [2]

The leaves are semiterete form, solid at first but later becoming hollow and pale bluish-green. Margin is terete. It is often inflated and hollow in the middle or in the lower part. [2]

The inflorescence is up to 2000 flowers. The tepals are greenish-white to purplish. The stamens are sometimes slightly exceeding tepals, style shorter than stamens at anthesis. [2]

The fruit is 4-6 mm in diametre, containing up to 6 seeds. The size of seeds is about 3 mm x 2 mm. In cv. group Common Onion the bulbs are large and normally single, and the plants reproduce from seed or from seed-grown bulbils, while in cv. group Aggregatum (shallot) the bulbs are smaller, several to many forming an aggregated cluster and reproduce vegetatively via lateral bulbs. [2]



Tropical shallot requires an average day temperature of 20-26°C and a day-length of at least 11 hours, whereas common onion prefers slightly lower temperatures and a day-length of at least 13 hours. In Indonesia, shallot is mainly grown in the lowlands below 450 m altitude, preferably on well-drained alluvial clay soil. Whereas Chinese chives, welsh onion and garlic are grown in the highlands up to 2200 m altitude. Most tropical onions are grown during the dry season, as too much rain will result in a high incidence of fungal diseases. They require well-drained soils. [2]

Chemical Constituent

No documentation

Plant Part Used

No documentation

Traditional Use

No documentation

Preclinical Data

No documentation

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation


No documentation

Line drawing


Figure 1: Line drawing of A. cepa. [2]


  1. The Plant List. Allium cepa L. ver1.1 [homepage on the internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2014 Aug 4]. Available from
  2. Sulistiarini D, Djamal J, Raharjo I. Allium cepa L. In: de Padua LS, Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens RHMJ, editors. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Netherlands, Backhuys Publisher; 1999. p. 97-98.
  3. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of Medicinal Plants Used in Malaysia. Vol. 1. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC-IMR: 2002. p.28.