|Allium cepa L.|
Onions may be grown from seed or very commonly from "sets". Onion sets are produced by sowing seed very thickly one year, resulting in stunted plants which produce very small bulbs. These bulbs are very easy to set out and grow into mature bulbs the following year, but they have the reputation of producing a less durable bulb than onions grown directly from seed and thinned.
Either planting method may be used to produce spring onions or green onions, which are just onions harvested while immature, although "green onion" is also a common name for the welsh onion, Allium fistulosum which never produces dry bulbs.
Onions are frequently used in school science laboratories because they have particularly large cells which are easily visible through an optical microscope. See how to prepare an onion cell slide for details.
The genus Allium is a large one, and most of the species are considered to be "onions" in the looser sense. Commonly raised vegetable alliums include the leeks, garlic, elephant garlic, chives, shallots, welsh onions and garlic chives. There are also species such as Allium moly which are grown for ornament.
Several species of wild onion, including A. canadense and A. diabolense, can be collected in the wild and their leaves and bulbs used as food.