Montana Outdoors

May 17, 2017

There are Camas, and there are Camas…

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







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!

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 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.)

May 18, 2008

Red, white or blue

Filed under: Flowers, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Wildflowers — Tags: , , — montucky @ 9:30 pm

Red trillium (trillium ovatum)

Red trillium

Death Camas (zigadenus venenosus)

Death camas

Larkspur (delphinium L)


(This is the first Larkspur I’ve seen this year!)

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