Wild leek is a perennial herb that grows in rich maple stands in eastern North America. In Québec it is found in the southern part of the province, from the Outaouais to Montmagny, and as far north as Mont-Laurier.
This edible plant is well known and appreciated for the garlic taste of its bulb. It is picked early in the spring, the only time of year when its leaves are visible. It sends out leaves to help it store up its annual reserves.
Since the 1970s, its popularity has led to over-harvesting, driven by commercial sales, and the species has declined sharply. Wild leek is particularly vulnerable to over-picking, since it is the largest plants that are the most prized-the very ones that contribute the most to maintaining populations, through their longevity and their ability to reproduce by offsets. It takes 7 to 10 years for an individual plant to reach maturity when started from seed. Simply harvesting about 5% of a colony is enough to send it into decline.
Research conducted at the Biodôme since 1994 has clearly illustrated the precarious situation of the species. These recent inventories show that close to 10% of wild leek populations have disappeared. In Québec, one out of four wild leek populations has disappeared or is endangered, i.e. it has fewer than 1,000 plants. This number is considered the minimum for a viable colony. Wild leek has all but disappeared from the Montréal and Laval regions, and many colonies are struggling in the Laurentians, Lanaudière, Montérégie and Outaouais regions. In 1995, wild leek was officially designated a vulnerable species in Québec, under the Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species (Bill 108). All commercial sales are now prohibited by law.
The goal of this project is to establish a public awareness, education and recovery program for wild leek in the six regions of Québec where it is most in danger: Montérégie, the Laurentians, Lanaudière, Outaouais, Montréal and Laval, so as to protect the species and encourage its recovery. All in all, more than 200 sites were selected and seeded in spring 2000, with the help of the owners and managers of the sites involved.