Montana Outdoors

May 2, 2009

Death Camas

Filed under: Flowers, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Wildflowers — Tags: , — montucky @ 8:46 am

Zigadenus venenosus, (Lily family)

Death Camas

All parts of this plant contain the poisonous alkaloid zygadenine, which some claim to be more potent than strychnine. One bulb, raw or cooked, can be fatal.” (From Montana Plant Life.)

The bulbs contain the most concentrated alkaloids and can easily be mistaken for the bulbs of Blue Camas (Camassia quamash) which is still being harvested as a food source by many local Indians.

Presumably the death part doesn’t apply to the little visitor with the Persian rug suit, doing its destined job as the plant’s pollinator. (Actually it’s just mooching a free lunch but I think describing it as a “destined pollinator” reads better.)

22 Comments »

  1. wow,…that’s a lesson that must have been learned the hard way!

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    Comment by Cedar — May 2, 2009 @ 10:20 am

    • It must have been! Hopefully the other folks around were fast learners!

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      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  2. YIKES! I’m no Euell Gibbons and for good reason. The only wild foods I eat are strawberries, huckleberries, rasberries… just berries. Hold the Camas please!

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    Comment by Maureen — May 2, 2009 @ 10:50 am

    • I’m pretty much the same way. It’s easy to identify the blue camas, but still.

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      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

  3. Awful pretty to be so poisonous.

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    Comment by Bo — May 2, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  4. One easy way to get rid of an enemy. Just boil up a big pot of soup and drop a couple of these bulbs in and invite him to dinner. Wow!

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    Comment by Iona — May 2, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

    • That has probably been done in cultures that ate camas. I think I would keep my eye on them from digging the bulbs to eating them.

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      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

  5. Ha ha I am with Iona on that one…thinking of a conservative pundit with long blonde hair LOL. Nah, I am not the least bit murderous, but wow that plant is too scary! I think I will stick with eating potatoes and carrots and not mess around with wildflower bulbs and tubers.

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    Comment by Tabbie — May 2, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

    • Out side of berries, there are two mushrooms that i feel confident enough to eat, and a few others that I don’t eat but would if I needed to, such as the roots of arrowleaf balsamroot.

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      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

      • Well yes, morel mushrooms are amazingly good, and I am good at identifying them from look-alikes. I suppose I could eat skinned cattail tubers if I were starving, and perhaps some wintergreen berries and some dandelion greens to round it all off. Certainly I’ll stick with things I know. 😉

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        Comment by Tabbie — May 2, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

        • Morels and giant puffballs. In late summer and fall one could easily live on berries here. I’ve often thought that if I were to pick and dry the berries on just the hillside up our road there would be enough for several months. We do make syrup and jelly from chokecherries, and I have some of the nearly every day.

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          Comment by montucky — May 2, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  6. Oooh…scar-ey!!!! (But beauitful picture!)

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    Comment by Stacey — May 2, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

    • I’ve never heard of anyone around here being poisoned from them, but livestock have been.

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      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  7. Wow… interesting. I know we have poison plants that can be mistaken for the edible ones. Looks like the winged ones, though, can flit around the toxic, yet lovely, plants.

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    Comment by Anna Surface — May 2, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

    • Some of the relationships that insects have with poisonous plants are amazing. I’ve also seen deer eat plants that are know to be poisonous with no ill effects.

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      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

  8. Very interesting plant and information … not all things are as they first appear

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    Comment by Robert Burcul — May 2, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

    • No they’re not! I’m just as happy to learn some things from the experiences of others!

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      Comment by montucky — May 2, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

  9. Nice.

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    Comment by Patia — May 2, 2009 @ 10:51 pm

  10. very interesting!

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    Comment by silken — May 3, 2009 @ 7:10 pm


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