|Indian Camas (Camassia quamash)|
| See text. |
| Phalangium |
- For the death camas, see Zigadenus.
Camassia species were an important food staple for Native Americans and settlers in parts of the American Old West. Many areas in the Northwest are named for the plant, including the city of Camas, Washington, the Camas Prairie in northern Idaho (and its Camas Prairie Railroad), and Camas County in southern Idaho.
Camas grow in the wild in great numbers in moist meadows; they are perennial plants with basal linear leaves measuring 8 to 32 inches (20–80 cm) in length, which emerge early in the spring. They grow to a height of 12 to 50 inches (30–130 cm), with a multi-flowered stem rising above the main plant in summer. The six-petaled flowers vary in color from pale lilac or white to deep purple or blue-violet. They sometimes color whole meadows.
- Camassia angusta - Prairie Camas
- Camassia cusickii - Cusick's Camas (occurs in eastern Oregon)
- Camassia howellii - Howell's Camas
- Camassia leichtlinii - Large Camas, Great Camas (occurs west of the Cascade Mountains from British Columbia to the Sierra Nevada).
- Camassia leichtlinii ssp. leichtlinii : Large Camas
- Camassia leichtlinii ssp. suksdorfii : Suksdorf's Large Camas
- Camassia quamash - Quamash, Indian Camas, Small Camas.
- Camassia scilloides - Atlantic Camas, Bear grass (occurs in the eastern United States in North America. The habitat extends along the Atlantic states from Maryland to Georgia and westward to Texas. It also includes the upper midwest states of Michigan and Wisconsin.)
Cultivation and uses
- Ornamental use
- Food use
Though the once-immense spreads of camas lands have diminished because of modern developments and agriculture, numerous Camas prairies and marshes may still be seen today. In the Great Basin, expanded settlement by whites accompanied by turning cattle and hogs onto camas prairies greatly diminished food available to native tribes and increased tension between Native Americans and settlers and travelers.
Warning: While Camassia species are edible and nutritious, the white-flowered Deathcamas species (which are not the genus Camassia, but part of the genus Zigadenus) that grow in the same areas are toxic, and the bulbs are quite similar. It is easiest to tell the plants apart when they are in flower.