False Hellebore Family – Melanthiaceae
Death-camas is also called Meadow Death-camas. Former Latin Name was Zigadenus venenosus.
Plant Description: Death Camas has a 10 to 24 inch, shiny, erect flowering stem with basal leaves that are grass-like, 4 to 15 inches long and up to .25 inches wide. The leaves have stiff hairs along the edges and a deep groove down the center. Sometimes there are stem leaves which become shorter up the stem. Cream colored, saucer-shaped flowers grow up the top 6 inches of the stem on stalks .5 inch or longer. The flowers are tightly packed at first, but spread out as the stem elongates.
Flower Description: The flowers are 1/2 inch across. The 6 white to creamy-colored tepals are unequal in length: 3 are a bit shorter and have a shorter claw (narrower base). Each petal has a yellow gland near the base. The 6 stamens are slightly longer than the petals. There are 3 styles.
Ecology: Death-camas grows in meadows, grassy slopes and open forests where it is damp in the spring, from sea level to high elevations on both sides of the mountains.
- Death-camas has been moved from the Lily Family to the False Hellebore Family. See “APG Changes” page
- Death-camas is somewhat foul smelling.
- The bulbs and leaves of Death-camas are very poisonous. It often grows with Common Camas, which was an important food of the Native Americans. The bulbs were easily confused during harvest, so the Native Americans “weeded” them out when they were in bloom and the plants easily distinguished from the blue flowers of the Common Camas.
Death-camas Photo Gallery
Actual flower size: 1.2 in across