Overview

Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Common camas is distributed from southern British Columbia and
southwestern Alberta east to Montana and south to California, Idaho,
Utah, and Wyoming [3,4]. An introduced population occurs near Haines,
Alaska [16].
  • 3. Dayton, William A. 1960. Notes on western range forbs: Equisetaceae through Fumariaceae. Agric. Handb. 161. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 254 p. [767]
  • 4. Delane, Teresa M.; Sharp, William H. 1976. The blue camas, Camassia quamash, a plant new to Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 90(1): 79-80. [23843]
  • 16. Scoggan, H. J. 1978. The flora of Canada. Ottawa, Canada: National Museums of Canada. (4 volumes) [18143]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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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

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Occurrence in North America

AK CA ID MT OR UT WA WY AB BC

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene:
China (Asia)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
  • Anonymous. 1986. List-Based Rec., Soil Conserv. Serv., U.S.D.A. Database of the U.S.D.A., Beltsville.   http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1103 External link.
  • Cronquist, A. J., A. H. Holmgren, N. H. Holmgren & Reveal. 1977. Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. 6: 1–584. In A. J. Cronquist, A. H. Holmgren, N. H. Holmgren, J. L. Reveal & P. K. Holmgren (eds.) Intermount. Fl. Hafner Pub. Co., New York.   http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/1725 External link.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: bulb, forb

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].
  • 12. Lackschewitz, Klaus. 1991. Vascular plants of west-central Montana--identification guidebook. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-227. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 648 p. [13798]
  • 13. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1905 p. [6155]
  • 23. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1937. Range plant handbook. Washington, DC. 532 p. [2387]

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Description

Bulbs seldom clustered, globose, 1–5 cm diam. Leaves usually fewer than 10, 1–6 dm × 4–20 mm. Inflorescences 20–80 cm; sterile bracts absent, bracts subtending flowers usually equaling or exceeding pedicel. Flowers usually zygomorphic, sometimes actinomorphic; tepals withering separately or connivent over capsules after anthesis, long-persistent on fruiting racemes, blue or bluish violet, each 3–9-veined, 12–35 × 1.5–8 mm; anthers usually yellow, sometimes bluish violet, violet, or brown, 2.5–7 mm; fruiting pedicel mostly incurving-erect, occasionally spreading-erect, 5–70 mm. Capsules not deciduous, pale green to pale brown, ovoid, 6–19 mm. Seeds 5–10 per locule. 2n = 30.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Phalangium quamash Pursh, Fl. Amer. Sept. 1: 226. 1814
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

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
K033 Chaparral
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

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

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

FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES27 Redwood
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands

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Habitat characteristics

Common camas grows on sites that are moist to wet in spring but dry by
late spring or summer [4,6,8,12,25]. It is commonly found near vernal
pools, springs, and intermittent streams [10]. It occurs at elevations
ranging from sea level to 7,000 feet (2,134 m) in California [13] and
from 6,240 to 7,950 feet (1,890-2,410 m) in Utah [25].

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) [17].
  • 4. Delane, Teresa M.; Sharp, William H. 1976. The blue camas, Camassia quamash, a plant new to Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 90(1): 79-80. [23843]
  • 6. Gabriel, Herman W., III. 1976. Wilderness ecology: the Danaher Creek Drainage, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 224 p. Dissertation. [12534]
  • 8. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur; Ownbey, Marion. 1969. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 1: Vascular cryptograms, gymnosperms, and monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 p. [1169]
  • 10. Klinka, K.; Krajina, V. J.; Ceska, A.; Scagel, A. M. 1989. Indicator plants of coastal British Columbia. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press. 288 p. [10703]
  • 12. Lackschewitz, Klaus. 1991. Vascular plants of west-central Montana--identification guidebook. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-227. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 648 p. [13798]
  • 13. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1905 p. [6155]
  • 17. Skovlin, Jon M.; Edgerton, Paul J.; McConnell, Burt R. 1983. Elk use of winter range as affected by cattle grazing, fertilizing, and burning in southeastern Washington. Journal of Range Management. 36(2): 184-189. [2154]
  • 25. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]

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Habitat: Cover Types

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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
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock
231 Port-Orford-cedar
232 Redwood
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

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Key Plant Community Associations

In the Intermountain region and the northern Rocky Mountains, common
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].
  • 10. Klinka, K.; Krajina, V. J.; Ceska, A.; Scagel, A. M. 1989. Indicator plants of coastal British Columbia. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press. 288 p. [10703]
  • 13. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1905 p. [6155]
  • 22. Turner, Nancy J.; Kuhnlein, Harriet V. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): two liliaceous "root' foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 13: 199-219. [20526]

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General Ecology

Immediate Effect of Fire

Fire presumably top-kills common camas.

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Fire Ecology

Soil insulates the meristematic tissue in common camas bulbs from damage
by fire [22].
  • 22. Turner, Nancy J.; Kuhnlein, Harriet V. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): two liliaceous "root' foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 13: 199-219. [20526]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

Facultative Seral Species

Common camas is shade intolerant [10]. 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].
  • 1. Antieau, Clayton J.; Gaynor, Peggy E. 1990. Native grassland restoration and creation in western Washington. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(1): 34-35. [14166]
  • 10. Klinka, K.; Krajina, V. J.; Ceska, A.; Scagel, A. M. 1989. Indicator plants of coastal British Columbia. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press. 288 p. [10703]
  • 22. Turner, Nancy J.; Kuhnlein, Harriet V. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): two liliaceous "root' foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 13: 199-219. [20526]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the term: bulb

Common camas reproduces from seed and bulb offsets [18,22]. Clones
flower at age 2 or 3 years [18].
  • 18. Sperka, Marie. 1973. Growing wildflowers: A gardener's guide. New York: Harper & Row. 277 p. [10578]
  • 22. Turner, Nancy J.; Kuhnlein, Harriet V. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): two liliaceous "root' foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 13: 199-219. [20526]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: geophyte

Geophyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: forb

Forb

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Plant Response to Fire

Common camas on the palouse prairie of eastern Washington increases
with frequent fire [1]. Data regarding common camas postfire recovery
are lacking.
  • 1. Antieau, Clayton J.; Gaynor, Peggy E. 1990. Native grassland restoration and creation in western Washington. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(1): 34-35. [14166]

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Post-fire Regeneration

Geophyte, growing points deep in soil

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Fire Management Considerations

Because growth and flowering occur in spring and early summer,
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].
  • 20. Turner, Nancy Chapman; Bell, Marcus A. M. 1971. The ethnobotany of the Coast Salish Indians of Vancouver Island. Economic Botany. 25: 63-104. [21014]
  • 21. Turner, Nancy Chapman; Bell, Marcus A. M. 1973. The ethnobotany of the southern Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia. Economic Botany. 27: 257-310. [21015]

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

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
August [22].
  • 4. Delane, Teresa M.; Sharp, William H. 1976. The blue camas, Camassia quamash, a plant new to Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 90(1): 79-80. [23843]
  • 12. Lackschewitz, Klaus. 1991. Vascular plants of west-central Montana--identification guidebook. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-227. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 648 p. [13798]
  • 22. Turner, Nancy J.; Kuhnlein, Harriet V. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): two liliaceous "root' foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 13: 199-219. [20526]
  • 9. Idaho State Department of Commerce and Development. [n.d.]. Idaho wild flowers. Boise, ID: Idaho State Department of Commerce and Development. Pamphlet. 10 p. [17999]

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Life Cycle

Persistence: PERENNIAL

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Camassia quamash

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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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.

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Management

Management considerations

Common camas decreases under sheep grazing [22].
  • 22. Turner, Nancy J.; Kuhnlein, Harriet V. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): two liliaceous "root' foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 13: 199-219. [20526]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Other uses and values

Common camas bulbs were eaten by western Indians, trappers, and early
settlers [3,6,22,23]. Many western Indian tribes also used the bulbs as
a trade item [22].

Common camas is planted as an ornamental [3].
  • 3. Dayton, William A. 1960. Notes on western range forbs: Equisetaceae through Fumariaceae. Agric. Handb. 161. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 254 p. [767]
  • 6. Gabriel, Herman W., III. 1976. Wilderness ecology: the Danaher Creek Drainage, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 224 p. Dissertation. [12534]
  • 22. Turner, Nancy J.; Kuhnlein, Harriet V. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): two liliaceous "root' foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 13: 199-219. [20526]
  • 23. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1937. Range plant handbook. Washington, DC. 532 p. [2387]

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

More info for the term: restoration

Common camas was planted for mountain grassland restoration in western
Washington, using bulbs salvaged from a nearby area undergoing
subdivision [1]. Plants can also be established by fall planting of
seed [20].
  • 1. Antieau, Clayton J.; Gaynor, Peggy E. 1990. Native grassland restoration and creation in western Washington. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(1): 34-35. [14166]
  • 20. Turner, Nancy Chapman; Bell, Marcus A. M. 1971. The ethnobotany of the Coast Salish Indians of Vancouver Island. Economic Botany. 25: 63-104. [21014]

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Nutritional Value

More info for the term: fresh

Common camas forage is poor in energy and protein value [26]. The
nutrient composition of fresh bulbs (per gram dry weight) is as follows
[14]:

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
  • 14. Norton, H. H.; Hunn, E. S.; Martinsen, C. S.; Keely, P. B. 1984. Vegetable food products of the foraging economies of the Pacific Northwest. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 14(3): 219-228. [10327]
  • 26. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Livestock, elk, moose, and caribou graze common camas [23]. Pigs
consume the bulbs [6].
  • 6. Gabriel, Herman W., III. 1976. Wilderness ecology: the Danaher Creek Drainage, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 224 p. Dissertation. [12534]
  • 23. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1937. Range plant handbook. Washington, DC. 532 p. [2387]

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Palatability

Common camas provides fair to good graze for sheep and cattle [23].
  • 23. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1937. Range plant handbook. Washington, DC. 532 p. [2387]

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Wikipedia

Camassia quamash

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,[1] 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:


Contents

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.

Food use

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.[2]

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.


Notes

  1. ^ Etymology (pdf-document)
  2. ^ 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
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Notes

Comments

Camassia quamash is highly variable morphologically. Although there tend to be distinct geographical variants, here recognized as subspecies following F. W. Gould (1942), there is much overlap among them. The subspecific status of these taxa is retained to highlight the extreme morphological variability and geographical patterns within the species. A detailed biosystematic study of this complex is needed.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

common camas
camas
blue camas
western camas
camas lily
quamash

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Synonyms

Camassia esculenta Lindl.
Quamassia quamash (Pursh) Coville

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The currently accepted scientific name of common camas is Camassia
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
  • 8. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur; Ownbey, Marion. 1969. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 1: Vascular cryptograms, gymnosperms, and monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 p. [1169]
  • 12. Lackschewitz, Klaus. 1991. Vascular plants of west-central Montana--identification guidebook. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-227. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 648 p. [13798]
  • 13. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1905 p. [6155]
  • 25. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 24. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573]

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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.

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