Camassia

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For the plants called deathcamas, see Melanthieae.
Camassia
Camassia-quamash.jpg
Indian camas (Camassia quamash)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Subfamily: Agavoideae
Genus: Camassia
Lindl.
Type species
Camassia quamash
(Pursh) Greene
Species

See text.

Synonyms

Phalangium

Cusick's camas (Camassia cusickii)

Camassia is a genus of six species native to western Canada, and the western United States, from southern British Columbia to northern California, and east to Utah, Wyoming and Montana. Common names include camas, quamash, Indian hyacinth, camash, and wild hyacinth. It grows in the wild in great numbers in moist meadows; they are perennial plants with basal linear leaves measuring 8 to 32 inches (20 to 81 cm) in length, which emerge early in the spring. They grow to a height of 12 to 50 inches (30 to 127 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. Camas can appear to color entire meadows when in flower.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

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, Lacamas Creek in southern Washington,[1] the Camas Prairie in northern Idaho (and its Camas Prairie Railroad), and Camas County in southern Idaho.[2]

Food use[edit]

While Camassia species are edible and nutritious, the white-flowered deathcamas species (which are not in the genus Camassia but in a number of genera in the tribe Melanthieae) 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.

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. The Kutenai called the camas "xapi" (Ktunaxa).[3] Camas bulbs contributed to the survival of members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.[citation needed]

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.[4] Though the once-immense[citation needed] spreads of camas lands have diminished because of modern developments and agriculture, numerous camas prairies and marshes may still be seen today.

Ornamental use[edit]

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.

Taxonomy and species[edit]

Historically, the genus was placed in the lily family (Liliaceae), when this was very broadly defined to include most lilioid monocots.[5] When the Liliaceae was split, in some treatments Camassia was placed in a family called Hyacinthaceae (now the subfamily Scilloideae).[6] DNA and biochemical studies have led the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group to reassign Camassia to the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae.[7]

The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families recognizes six species as of March 2013:[8][9]

Synonyms[edit]

The term Camassia esculenta is a confusing one. Not an accepted name, it has been used twice, both for Camassia quamash and for Camassia scilloides, depending on the authority. Consequently the reference to Camassia esculenta (Ker Gawl.) B.L.Rob.[10] as a synonym for C. scilloides is deemed illegitimate (nom. illeg.),[11] while reference to Camassia esculenta (Nutt.) Lindl.[12] is a non-accepted name (synonym) for C. quamash subsp. quamash.[13] Hence the continuing horticultural usage without qualification is potentially confusing.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Majors, Harry M. (1975). Exploring Washington. Van Winkle Publishing Co. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-918664-00-6. 
  2. ^ Idaho.gov - Camas County - accessed 2009-06-06
  3. ^ "FirstVoices- Ktunaxa. Plants: food plants: words.". Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  4. ^ The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre, Brigham D. Madsen, forward by Charles S. Peterson, University of Utah Press (1985, paperback 1995), trade paperback, 286 pages, ISBN 0-87480-494-9
  5. ^ Ranker, Tom A. & Hogan, Tim, "Camassia", retrieved 2012-05-16  Missing or empty |title= (help), in Flora of North America Editorial Committee, ed. (1982 onwards), Flora of North America (online), eFloras.org  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Fernandez, A. & Daviña, J.R. (1991), Heterochromatin and Genome Size in Fortunatia and Camassia (Hyacinthaceae), Kew Bulletin 46 (2): 307–316, JSTOR 4110602 
  7. ^ Stevens, P.F. (2001 onwards), Angiosperm Phylogeny Website: Asparagales: Agavoideae  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, retrieved August 19, 2014 
  9. ^ The Plant List
  10. ^ Rhodora 10: 31 (1908)
  11. ^ World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: Camassia esculenta (Ker Gawl.) B.L.Rob.
  12. ^ Edwards's Bot. Reg. 18: t. 1486 (1832)
  13. ^ World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: Camassia esculenta (Nutt.) Lindl.
  14. ^ Dig Drop Done

Further reading[edit]

Brisland, Richard T. W. Camas processing or upland hunting : an interpretation of lithic scatters at High Prairie. Calgary, Alb.: University of Calgary, 1992. Thesis (M.A.)
Comber, Harold F.; Miller, Murray. Check list of the plants of the Camassia Natural Area : vascular plants. [Oregon]: Oregon Chapter, The Nature Conservancy, 1967
Coville, Frederick V. (1897). The technical name of the camas plant. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 11: 61-65.
Gould, Frank W. A systematic treatment of the genus Camassia Lindl. Notre Dame, Ind.: University Press, 1942.
Konlande, J. E.; Robson, John R. (1972). The nutritive value of cooked camas as consumed by Flathead Indians. Ecology of food and nutrition 2: 193-195.
Maclay, Anne M. Studies of the life history of Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene. Pullman, Wash., State College of Washington (Washington State University), 1928. Thesis (M.S.)
Rice, Peter M.; Toney, J. Chris.; Cross, Marcia Pablo. Rehabilitation of camas and bitterroot gathering sites: study plan. [Hamilton, Mont: Bitterroot National Forest: U.S. Forest Service], 1996.
Smith, Harriet L. Camas: the plant that caused wars. Lake Oswego, Or.: Smith, Smith and Smith Pub. Co., 1978.
Stevens, Michelle L. and Darris, Dale C. Plant Guide for Common Camas: Ethnobotany, Culture, Management, and Use. Plant Materials Technical Note No. 25. (June 16, 2000) U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Portland, Oregon, 2000.
Stevens, Michelle L. and Darris, Dale C. Ethnobotany, Culture and Use of Great Camas (Camassia quamash ssp. quamash). Plant Materials Technical Note No. 23 (September 1999). U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Portland, Oregon, 1999
Storm, Linda. Patterns and Processes of Indigenous Burning 2000
Statham, Dawn Stram. Camas and the Northern Shoshoni: a biogeographic and socioeconomic analysis. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University, 1982.
Thoms, Alston V. The northern roots of hunter-gatherer intensification: camas and the Pacific Northwest. Pullman, Wash.: Thesis (Ph. D.)--Washington State University, 1989.
Toney, J. Chris. Traditional plant restoration: restoration of camas & bitterroot gathering sites (phase I-year 1 progress report). [Hamilton, Mont: Bitterroot National Forest: U.S. Forest Service], 1997

External links[edit]