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Camassia

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Divisio: Magnoliophyta
Classis: Liliopsida
Subclassis: Liliidae
Ordo: Asparagales
Familia: Hyacinthaceae
Genus: Camassia
Species: C. angusta - C. cusickii - C. howellii - C. leichtlinii - C. quamash - C. scilloides

Name

Camassia Lindl.

Vernacular names

Camassia is a genus of six species native to western North America, from southern British Columbia to northern California, and east to Utah, Wyoming and Montana. Historically, the genus was thought to belong to the lily family (Liliaceae), sometimes narrowed down to the families Scillaceae or Hyacinthaceae, but DNA and biochemical studies have led the APG II-group to reassign Camassia to the family Agavaceae. Common names include Camas, Quamash, Indian hyacinth, and Wild hyacinth.

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]

Camas grow in the wild in great numbers in moist meadows; they are perennial plants with basal linear leaves measuring 8 to 32 inches (20–80 cm) in length, which emerge early in the spring. They grow to a height of 12 to 50 inches (30–130 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. They sometimes color whole meadows.

Species

Camassia angusta - Prairie Camas
Camassia cusickii - Cusick's Camas (occurs in eastern Oregon)
Camassia howellii - Howell's Camas
Camassia leichtlinii - Large Camas, Great Camas (occurs west of the Cascade Mountains from British Columbia to the Sierra Nevada).
Camassia leichtlinii ssp. leichtlinii : Large Camas
Camassia leichtlinii ssp. suksdorfii : Suksdorf's Large Camas
Camassia quamash - Quamash, Indian Camas, Small Camas.
Camassia scilloides - Atlantic Camas, Bear grass (occurs in the eastern United States in North America. The habitat extends along the Atlantic states from Maryland to Georgia and westward to Texas. It also includes the upper midwest states of Michigan and Wisconsin.)

Cultivation and 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.[3]

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.

References

^ Majors, Harry M. (1975). Exploring Washington. Van Winkle Publishing Co. p. 120. ISBN 9780918664006.
^ Idaho.gov - Camas County - accessed 2009-06-06
^ 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

References

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

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Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License