Camassia, commonly known as Camas or Quamash, is a genus of six species of flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, native to North America.
These plants produce narrow linear leaves and striking blooms in spring and summer. The flowers are star-shaped with six petals that may be blue, purple or white, depending on the species. They are recognisable by their long stamens, giving them a magical look overall. They are gorgeous in beds and borders, but also good as cut flowers. Once planted, they will come back reliably year after year to brighten up your yard!
The genus name comes from the Nez Perce Indian name for this plant, and is based on the name “camas” or “quamash”, meaning “sweet”, in reference to the use of this plant as a food source for Native Americans.
Camassia symbolizes consciousness, encouragement, strength and pride.
Interesting facts about Camassia
Is Camassia Poisonous?
Camassia species are not toxic to either pets or people. In fact, they are usually edible and nutritious.
However, they are often confused with a similar plant known as Death Camas (Zigadenus venenosus), whose bulbs are highly poisonous and often grows in the same habitat as the Camassia.
Benefits and Uses of Camassia
Camas has been used as a medicine by Native Americans for centuries.
It has been used to induce labour in a pregnant woman and to treat cough and common infections, but also to stop vaginal bleeding after birth.
Some species, such as Camassia quamash and Camassia scilloides, are edible and quite delicious. They can be eaten raw, cooked, baked or dried and made into a powder. The edible parts of the plant are the bulbs, roots and flowers.
Camassia was an important staple food for Native Americans who used it in a variety of ways. It was a chief vegetable diet of Native Americans, as well as early settlers.
The plant was unknown to science before the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Their expedition lasted from 1803 to 1806 and was aided tremendously by the support of some Native American tribes. During one of their journeys, they were met by members of the Nez Perce tribe, who provided them with food, including Camassia bulbs. As a result of their journey, they discovered 122 species and subspecies of animals and 178 species of plants that Lewis and Clark recorded for the first time.
Today, the plant is more often used as an ornamental than as a cooking herb.
Camassia Plant Data
The flowers are usually blue, purple and white, with attractive yellow stamens.
These plants can grow up to about 90 cm (3 ft) tall.
They prefer moist and well-drained soil, and are not fussy about the pH of the soil.