Regularity: Regularly occurring
Regularity: Regularly occurring
southwestern Alberta east to Montana and south to California, Idaho,
Utah, and Wyoming [3,4]. An introduced population occurs near Haines,
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
Occurrence in North America
Common camas is a native perennial forb. Its peduncle is from 8 to 20
inches (20-50 cm) in height and supports a terminal raceme. The
peduncle and basal leaves attach to a bulb that is up to 1.5 inches (6
cm) across. Its roots are fibrous. The fruit is a three-celled capsule
with 5 to 10 seeds per cell [12,13,23].
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
More info for the term: shrub
K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest
K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest
K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir - hemlock forest
K005 Mixed conifer forest
K006 Redwood forest
K007 Red fir forest
K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
K009 Pine - cypress forest
K010 Ponderosa shrub forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K014 Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce - fir forest
K026 Oregon oakwoods
K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026
K029 California mixed evergreen forest
K030 California oakwoods
K034 Montane chaparral
K037 Mountain-mahogany - oak scrub
K047 Fescue - oatgrass
K048 California steppe
K049 Tule marshes
K050 Fescue - wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass - bluegrass
K063 Foothills prairie
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
More info for the term: shrub
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
late spring or summer [4,6,8,12,25]. It is commonly found near vernal
pools, springs, and intermittent streams . It occurs at elevations
ranging from sea level to 7,000 feet (2,134 m) in California  and
from 6,240 to 7,950 feet (1,890-2,410 m) in Utah .
Associated species in the Intermountain region are snowberry
(Symphoricarpos albus), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata),
Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), Douglas grass-widow (Sisyrinchium
douglasii), Hooker balsamroot (Balsamorhiza hookeri), rush pussytoes
(Antennaria luzuloides), Wyeth buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides), and
western yarrow (Achillea millifolium) .
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
205 Mountain hemlock
211 White fir
213 Grand fir
218 Lodgepole pine
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock
233 Oregon white oak
234 Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
244 Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir
245 Pacific ponderosa pine
246 California black oak
247 Jeffrey pine
249 Canyon live oak
250 Blue oak - Digger pine
255 California coast live oak
256 California mixed subalpine
Key Plant Community Associations
camas is usually found in mountain grassland and prairie communities.
West of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada crest, it occurs in both forest and
grassland types [10,13,22].
Immediate Effect of Fire
by fire .
Facultative Seral Species
Common camas is shade intolerant . In forested areas, it is found
on open sites created by disturbance. In grasslands and meadows, it is
most prevalent in initial and early seral communities but also occurs in
later seres [1,10,22].
Common camas reproduces from seed and bulb offsets [18,22]. Clones
flower at age 2 or 3 years .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Plant Response to Fire
with frequent fire . Data regarding common camas postfire recovery
Fire Management Considerations
short-interval fires in spring or early summer would probably reduce
common camas populations.
Northwest Coast Indians reportedly set fires annually. This optimized
common camas production by maintaining an open prairie [20,21].
Life History and Behavior
Common camas flowers from May to July, depending upon elevation and snow
cover [4,9,12]. Leaves die and seeds are dispersed from late May to
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Camassia quamash
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Widespread throughout western North America, preferred habitat includes mesic to moist meadows, can be common.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Other uses and values
settlers [3,6,22,23]. Many western Indian tribes also used the bulbs as
a trade item .
Common camas is planted as an ornamental .
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
Common camas was planted for mountain grassland restoration in western
Washington, using bulbs salvaged from a nearby area undergoing
subdivision . Plants can also be established by fall planting of
Common camas forage is poor in energy and protein value . The
nutrient composition of fresh bulbs (per gram dry weight) is as follows
calories 3.90 calcium (mg) 1.76
protein (g) 0.13 iron (mg) 0.23
carbohydrate (g) 0.80 magnesium (mg) 0.40
lipid (g) 0.03 zinc (mg) 0.03
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
Quamash (Camassia quamash), also known as Small Camas, is a perennial herb. It is one species of the genus Camassia and is native to western North America in large areas of southern Canada and the northwestern United States, from British Columbia and Alberta to California and east from Washington state to Montana and Wyoming.
The pale blue to deep blue flowers grow in a raceme at the end of the stem. Each of the radially symmetrical, star-shaped flowers have 6 petals. The stems have a length between 30 cm and 90 cm. The leaves are basal and have a grass-like appearance.
The name Quamash is from Nez Perce qém’es, a term for the plant's bulb, which was gathered and used as a food source by tribes in the Pacific Northwest. The bulbs were harvested and pit-roasted or boiled by women of the Nez Perce, Cree, and Blackfoot tribes. It also provided a valuable food source for the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806).
Quamash is not just an edible plant, it is also grown as an ornamental plant. Even in the wild, large numbers of quamash can color an entire meadow blue-violet.
While quamash is edible and nutritious, it may occasionally grow with Zygadenus species which are extremely poisonous and which have very similar bulbs, so it is very important to be sure of your identification.
There are eight subspecies:
- Camassia quamash subsp. azurea – Small Camas
- Camassia quamash subsp. breviflora – Small Camas
- Camassia quamash subsp. intermedia – Small Camas
- Camassia quamash subsp. linearis – Small Camas
- Camassia quamash subsp. maxima – Small Camas
- Camassia quamash subsp. quamash – Small Camas
- Camassia quamash subsp. utahensis – Utah Small Camas
- Camassia quamash subsp. walpolei – Walpole's Small Camas
Cultivation and Garden uses
- Ornamental use
This bulbflower naturalizes well in gardens. The bulb grows best in well-drained soil high in humus. It will grow in lightly shaded forest areas and on rocky outcrops as well as in open meadows or prairies. Additionally it is found growing alongside streams and rivers. The plants may be divided in autumn after the leaves have withered. Bulbs should be planted in the autumn. Additionally the plant spreads by seed rather than by runners.
The Quamash was a food source for many native peoples in the western United States and Canada. After being harvested in the autumn, once the flowers have withered, the bulbs were pit-roasted or boiled. A pit-cooked camas bulb looks and tastes something like baked sweet potato, but sweeter, and with more crystalline fibers due to the presence of inulin in the bulbs. When dried, the bulbs could be pounded into flour. Native American tribes who ate camas include the Nez Perce, Cree, Coast Salish, Lummi, and Blackfoot tribes, among many others. Camas bulbs contributed to the survival of members of the expedition of Lewis and Clark (1804-1806).
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.
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Names and Taxonomy
Comments: T. Ranker and T. Hogan (2002) in the Flora of North America note that Camassia quamash is highly variable with much overlap between the eight subspecies. However they retain these long-recognized subspecies to highlight the extreme morphological variability and geographical patterns within the species, and recommend a detailed biosystematic study be conducted. Kartesz (1999) also recognized the eight subspecies.
Quamassia quamash (Pursh) Coville
quamash (Pursh) Greene (Liliaceae) [8,12,13,25]. Recognized subspecies
are as follows [13,24]:
C. q. ssp. azurea (A. Heller) Gould
C. q. ssp. breviflora Gould
C. q. ssp. intermedia Gould
C. q. ssp. linearis (Pursh) Greene
C. q. ssp. maxima Gould
C. q. ssp. quamash
C. q. ssp. utahensis (Pursh) Greene
C. q. ssp. walpolei (Piper) Gould
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