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Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene
Small Camas, Common Camass, Swamp Sego
Liliaceae (Lily Family)
USDA Symbol: CAQU2
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
A bulbous plant with basal clusters of narrow, grass-like, bright green leaves. The flowering racemes are 1-3 ft. tall with dozens of showy, star-like, sky- to deep-blue flowers. Light to deep blue-violet, star-shaped flowers in a raceme; several narrow, grass-like leaves grow mostly near the base. The three sepals and three petals all share the blue color.
This species is sometimes so frequent as to color entire meadows blue-violet. Indians pit-roasted the bland bulbs with other leaves, and also boiled them, which yielded a good syrup. Another similar species is Leichtlin's Camas (C. leichtlinii), which grows only west of the Cascade Mountains, from southern British Columbia to the southern portion of California's Sierra Nevada, and has radially symmetrical flowers.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Blue
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
DistributionUSA: CA , ID , MT , NV , OR , UT , WA , WY
Native Distribution: B.C. to CA, e. to s.w. Alt., MT, WY & UT
Native Habitat: Moist areas, often where dry by late spring
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Heavy, winter- & spring-moist soils.
Conditions Comments: Camass eventually goes dormant and should then have less water, but not fully dry soil. Considered among the easiest of and showiest of native bulbs.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Elk, deer & moose reportedly graze the plant in early spring.
Use Food: Bulb favored by indigenous peoples for food.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationDescription: Propagate from offsets or seed. Sow seed in a sealable container and refrigerate for 3 months or until germination starts. Germination is often poor. Seedlings take 3-4 years to flower.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
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June 09, 2006
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National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 1218 - Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources (2006) Anderson, M. Kat
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Camassia quamash in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Camassia quamash in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Camassia quamash
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-01-31
Research By: TWC Staff