Published by Daniel Mosquin on May 24, 2010
Family / Families: Asparagaceae Scientific Name(s): Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene
Location(s): Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, near Duncan, British Columbia, Canada Entry Author(s): Daniel Mosquin
Copyright Holder(s): Daniel Mosquin
Image License: Creative Commons License Tags: Asparagaceae, Asparagales, British Columbia, Canada, Photo by Daniel
The Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve
Last in the brief series on botanical vistas from this spring, this photograph was taken on May 1.
This photo was taken during a Native Plant Society of British Columbia field trip to the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, one of the “largest, most intact Garry oak woodland meadows on Vancouver Island”.
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Now that we can compare with in the Uk, what is the blue plant? We would have bluebells here.
@Jan: The blue flowered plant is Camas lily, once a staple in the food supply of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. It has been classed with the Liliaceae in the past, but is being regrouped into Agavaceae. The yellow is a lomatium. Daniel will have to supply the specific varieties.
I believe Daniel may be traveling so I will answer Jan’s question as I was on the same field trip. The blue flower is Camas, (Camassia quamash) a beautiful member of the Lily family that is locally abundant in spring. Unfortunately development is rapidly reducing Camas populations which is just one of the reasons why the Garry Oak preserve is so important. Camas was once so abundant that the bulbs were a staple food of the native peoples.
Camassia quamash if true must be one of the favourite plant names I have ever heard. However the articles title is surely a misnomer, wouldnt one expect to see some oak leaves and acorns?
But the beauty of the blue and intercalated yellow flowers makes up for the verbal misdirection, Van Gogh and Japanese printmakers would kill for such a sight.
Cammassia will do well in moist conditions. Dry ones too, since it grows in my ridge-top garden in Maryland. If my soil were not so clay-ey they woud do better, ie: spread faster. My strain is not as deep a blue, actually it is sort of powder blue, like an Amsonia. I wonder whether changing the ph or something about the soil would deepen the shade of blue?
I loved this deep blue in my spring garden so much I ordered more in a subsequent year and the new ones bloom a pale silvery blue in comparison even tho they are planted next to one another. Means they are genetically different and the color is not dependent on cultural diffences ( PH levels).
Camassia is hardy and grows well in British gardens. You can buy the bulbs from various stockists here. I love the shades of blue, both the silvery variety and the deeper blue seen in the photo.
Regards, Hilary (Cheshire, England)
I collected the seed of the deep blue one and grew them on. It took about 4 or 5 years to bloom, but this year it is absolutely stunning. The light blue one is a different variety.
But what are the cream colored flowers in the picture? Are they smilacena?
The yellow/cream flowers are Lomatium nudicaule, barestem desert-parsley, and the trees in the background are Garry Oak, the keystone species in the ecosystem.
Camassia quamash is sold in a number of colour forms. It varies naturally in colour in its range from central Vancouver Island to northern California and many of those forms have been developed and sold as named cultivars. It occasionally throws white or pink individuals in the midst of otherwise uniform stands.
Great camas, Camassia leichtlinii, is generally darker flowered and grows better than C. quamash in moist or somewhat shady conditions.
Marvellous photo, and all the following posts were so interesting.
Thanks Fred. On closer look, it does not look a bit like smilacena. But it is pretty and has AMAZING roots.
the flowers are haveing a spring riot
just plain drunk enjoying the sun and
and warm air enjoying their muti hued garments
lovely photo and fine comments thank you all
Just a quick note on the family. In the last publication of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, Agavaceae was transferred to Asparagaceae. Camassia is now part of Asparagaceae.
Thanks, Eric — corrected.
Love the camas photo! We live in the Potomac Valley in western Montana and enjoy the sight of acres of blue camas on our property every spring. However, this year, it is just barely beginning to bloom during this last week of May. Such a cold spring we’ve had. The fat, furry marmots that flourish around here are feasting on camas right now.
These would belong to Camassia quamash var. maxima. It can be quite dark.
The book on Prince Charles’ country estate that was on the shelves some years back showed an extensive planting of C. leichtlinii var./ssp. suksdorfii in the meadow in front of the house.
hi,I have only read a few of these as I am going through and cleaning out my mail while up with a sick child, but I did read that they don’t do well in clay? Guess that explains why I don’t have any yet! I live in an area that has many. Wish I could photo well enough for you. Have been watching, and they are getting closer to my home on a yearly basis by at least a good six yards or so. And that has been in the last 10 years. Live on St. Route 507 in Bucoda. Mima Acres might come to mind for some. Most people just call that a prairie violet around here. And they just grow wild, along with snow drops, thanks to local moles pushing them along
In our display gardens in MD, we’ve noticed that the camassia will be a deeper blue in more shaded areas, and more washed out in sunnier areas. Looks marvelous in in the spring with daffs.
Unless a change has been made, as I remember it reserve is called Mima Mounds. Signs lead to it from the freeway. Where not removed by development general vicinity has sheets of glacial blue C. quamash var. azurea, with occasional small groupings of dark purplish C. quamash var. maxima. Seems to be a tendency for these two to occur separately.
Certain locations near there have also supported C. leichtlinii var. suksdorfii, Grand Mound Prairie for instance. Fires resulting from artillery practice at Fort Lewis said to have made it a good place for great camas to grow.
Some places seen from roads have bluebells (Hyacinthoides) in the yard and Camassia in adjacent fields. Have never observed Camassia being encouraged or permitted inside the fence, in that area.
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