Montana Outdoors

May 10, 2018

Camas

There are many beautiful wildflowers in the Lily Family (Liliaceae); however not all of them are friendly. A day or so ago I encountered two different species of camas that, while they are quite different in outward appearance, they grow from bulbs that are nearly identical. There is a potential problem with that because while one has always been one of the most important “root” foods for the indigenous people of this region, the other one is poisonous and can be deadly.

Common Camas

Common Camas

Common camas, also called small camas or blue camas (Camassia quamash), was (and to some extent continues to be) a very important and prized food. Long ago it was so cherished that Indian wars were fought over select camas meadows and no other food item was more widely traded.

Meadow Death Camus

Meadow Death Camas (Zigadenus venenosus) bulbs and leaves contain an alkaloid, zigadenine, that is poisonous to humans and grazing animals.

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April 24, 2015

In the last few days…

Many, many years ago, someone driving along Highway 200 tossed out the core of a pear and the seeds took root. The little tree was too close to the highway and the highway crews cut it down year after year. And each year at least a little part remained on the side furthest from the road. This year there is a branch that has formed what may be a new trunk, far enough from the roadway that it might survive. It has grown to about 8 feet high and is just covered with the most beautiful blossoms.

Pear blossoms

Pear blossoms

More species of wildflowers have also begun to bloom, some very early, I think, but surely very welcome!

Meadow death-camas

Meadow death-camas ~ Zigadenus venenosus

Field Chickweed

Field Chickweed ~ Cerastium arvense

Slender Hawksbeard

Slender Hawksbeard ~ Crepis atrabarba

Peak Saxifrage

Peak Saxifrage – Micranthes nidifica

Field Pussytoes

Field Pussytoes ~ Antennaria neglecta

Upland Larkspur

Upland Larkspur ~ Delphinium nuttallianum

May 11, 2014

Early May wildflowers.

In spite of a cold spring and below normal rainfall here in western Montana, the wildflowers are blooming, but about two weeks later than usual. This morning there was fresh snow on the mountainsides a thousand feet above the valley floor.

Western Gromwell, Lemonweed

Western Gromwell, Lemonweed ~ Lithospermum ruderale

Western Serviceberry, Saskatoon

Western Serviceberry, Saskatoon ~ Amelanchier alnifolia

Field Pepperweed, Field Peppergrass or Pepperwort, Field Cress

Field Pepperweed, Field Peppergrass or Pepperwort, Field Cress ~ Lepidium campestre

Fairy Slipper, Calypso orchid

Fairy Slipper, Calypso orchid ~ Calypso bulbosa

Marsh Valerian, Northern Valerian

Marsh Valerian, Northern Valerian ~ Valeriana dioica

Hooker Fairy-bells

Hooker Fairy-bells ~ Prosartes hookeri

Kinnikinnik

Kinnikinnik ~ Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Field Chickweed

Field Chickweed ~ Cerastium arvense

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot ~ Balsamorhiza sagittata

Black Hawthorn

Black Hawthorn ~ Crataegus douglasii

Holboell's rockcress

Holboell’s rockcress ~ Boechera pendulocarpa

Menzies' fiddleneck

Menzies’ fiddleneck ~ Amsinckia menziesii

Meadow death-camas

Meadow death-camas ~ Toxicoscordion venenosum

Large-flowered Tritelia

Large-flowered Tritelia ~ Triteleia grandiflora

May 12, 2013

May wildflowers

After the late arrival of warm weather, the wildflowers in this part of Western Montana have been hurrying to catch up with spring. Here are more that have started blooming in May:

Miner's Lettuce

Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata

Unknown

Unknown

Western Blue Clematis

Western Blue Clematis, Clematis occidentalis

Heart-leaf Arnica

Heart-leaf Arnica , Arnica cordifolia

Fairy Slipper, Calypso Orchid

Fairy Slipper, Calypso Orchid , Calypso bulbosa

Falsebox, Mountain Boxwood, Oregon Boxwood

Falsebox, Mountain Boxwood, Oregon Boxwood, Paxistma myrsinites

Blue-eyed Mary

Blue-eyed Mary, Collinsia parviflora

Yellow Wood Violet

Yellow Wood Violet, Viola glabella

Arrow-leaved Balsamroot

Arrow-leaved Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata

Arrow-leaved Balsamroot

Arrow-leaved Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata

Serviceberry, Saskatoon

Serviceberry, Saskatoon, Amelanchier alnifolia

antelope bitterbrush, antelope-brush

Antelope Bitterbrush, Antelope-brush, Purshia tridentata

antelope bitterbrush, antelope-brush

Antelope Bitterbrush, Antelope-brush, Purshia tridentata

sticky purple geranium, sticky geranium

Sticky Purple Geranium, Sticky Geranium, Geranium viscosissimum

woolly groundsel

Woolly Groundsel, Packera cana

ground ivy

Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea

largeflower triteleia

Largeflower Triteleia, Triteleia grandiflora

meadow death camas, common death camas

Meadow Death Camas, Common Death Camas, Zigadenus venenosus

small-flowered woodland-star, small-flowered prairie-star

Small-flowered Woodland-star, Small-flowered Prairie-star, Lithophragma parviflorum

holly-leaf Oregon-grape, shining Oregongrape, tall Oregongrape

Holly-leaf Oregon-grape, Shining Oregongrape, Tall Oregongrape, Berberis aquifolium

Unknown shrub

Unknown shrub

woolly groundsel

Common Hawkweed, Hieracium lachenalii

two-lobe larkspur, upland larkspur

Two-lobe Larkspur, Upland Larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum

May 1, 2012

Three whites and a purple

With the exception of the Larkspur, the last flowers I observed blooming in April were white.

Saskatoon, Serviceberry

Saskatoon, Serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia

Saskatoon, Serviceberry

Saskatoon, Serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia

Upland Larkspur

Upland Larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum

Upland Larkspur

Upland Larkspur, Delphinium nuttallianum

Meadow Death-camas

Meadow Death-camas, Zigadenus venenosus

Meadow Death-camas

Meadow Death-camas, Zigadenus venenosus

Wild Strawberry

Wild Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana

Wild Strawberry

Wild Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana

Wild Strawberry

Wild Strawberry, Fragaria virginiana

May 18, 2011

Camas

Filed under: Wildflowers — Tags: , , , — montucky @ 9:00 pm

Common Camas, Blue Camas

Common Camas or Blue Camas ~ Camassia quamash

Meadow Death Camas

Meadow Death Camas ~ Zigadenus venenosus

Common or Blue Camas was an important food source for Indian tribes in the west and many Indian wars were fought over collecting rights to certain camas meadows.

Meadow Death Camas is a highly poisonous perennial herb. Serious losses can occur to stock grazing in meadows where it is common. Several Indian tribes used the mashed bulbs as arrow poison.

The problem is that the bulbs of the two species are visually nearly identical. I don’t like to think about how the early Indians learned which was edible and which was lethal, but they did and therefore harvested the bulbs of the Blue Camas only while it was in bloom.

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