Saturday, May 23, 2009

Death Camas

fieldtrip005, originally uploaded by sulustumoses.

Any time I take people to dig camas, especially children, I have to explain the dangers of death camas (zygadenus elegans and zygadenus venenosas). Oddly enough, death camas almost always seems to grow in the same locations as regular camas, but they are distinguished by their beautiful white flowers; regular camas are blue. Because of this one factor, I instructed the children to reject any camas bulbs without flowers. "If you can't see the flower," I told them, "You might get lucky, or not."

Death holds such a fascination for people.

No sooner had I spoken of death camas, when local plant expert Grant Cummings, arrived to show us a few living specimens. We found one death camas grown less than an inch from a brown camas and a nodding onion. All three plants have onion-like bulbs, so without the flower, it would be easy to confuse them. This would be a potentially deadly mistake.

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