Montana Outdoors

May 17, 2017

There are Camas, and there are Camas…

Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , , , , — montucky @ 9:54 am

Camus

Camus

Camus

Camus

Camus

Camus

Common Camas or Blue Camas ~ Cammassia quamash

The bulbs of the Blue Camas, which are starchy, nutritious and have a high sugar content were an important food source for the indigenous tribes in the west and northwest parts of the U.S. and Canada. Many Indian wars were fought for the collecting rights to cherished camas meadows, and as the explorers (including Lewis & Clark and Discovery), trappers and early settlers arrived they also depended on the Camas bulbs for some of their sustenance. “Camas Prairie” is a well known place name in an area close to where I live and also in an area in eastern Idaho as well as other areas across the west.

The other Camas however, is deadly.

Meadow Death Camas

Meadow Death Camas ~ Zigadenus venenosus is, as the name implies, extremely toxic and can cause death in people and cattle or other animals that graze on them and a big problem is that its bulb is nearly identical in looks to the bulb of the Blue Camas. I hate to think about just how it was discovered that they were deadly toxic to humans!

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May 24, 2012

Mid-May

American Vetch

American Vetch, Vicia americana, May 19

Annual Hawksbeard

Annual Hawksbeard, Crepis tectorum, May 19

Midget Phlox,

Midget Phlox,

Midget Phlox, Phlox gracilis, Microsteris gracilis, May 20

Common Camas, Blue Camas

Common Camas, Blue Camas

Common Camas, Blue Camas

Common Camas, Blue Camas, Camassia quamash, May 20

June 7, 2010

Camas & Camas

While on a fishing trip to Thompson River today I found that the Blue Camas are blooming along the Little Thompson River. The bulbs of the Blue (or Common) Camas are starchy, nutritious, have a high sugar content and were an important food source for the Indians in this area. Many battles and indeed wars, were fought over collecting rights to certain camas meadows.

Common CamasCommon camas, Blue Camas, Small camas, Camassia quamash, Lily family

Common Camas

Common Camas

There are also other bulbs that closely resemble those of the Blue Camas, but the bulbs of the Death Camas are highly toxic. Prudence dictated that Camas bulbs were harvested while the plants were in bloom to avoid confusing the two types!

Death CamasDeath camas, Zigadenus venenosus, Lily family

May 30, 2008

Camas

This spring I looked all over for the Common Camas or Blue Camas. It’s evil sibling the Death Camas was everywhere but the blue eluded me until on May 25th I was happy to find just a few in the most unlikely place and got these shots (from under an umbrella). It seems that camas like many other wildflowers has many moods and plays a variety of character roles depending on the light conditions.

Common Camas Camassia quamash.

Common Camas

Common Camas

Then yesterday on a Morell hunting trip I noticed that there was a light blue tint to a huge meadow along the Thompson River road about 25 miles north of Hwy 200, turned the Jeep onto a tiny road that led into the meadow and there found at least 400 acres of camas in bloom. I’ve read that many Indian wars were fought over the rights to certain camas meadows because camas was a very important food source for them. The bulbs of the camas are starchy, nutritious, have a high sugar content, and can be eaten raw, baked, boiled, roasted or dried. They should be collected only during the blooming season to avoid confusing them with the very similar-looking but poisonous bulbs of the Death Camas.

Common Camas

Common Camas

Common Camas

Common Camas

Field of camas

USDA Plants

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