54. Camassia Lindley, Edwards’s Bot. Reg. 18: plate 1486. 1832.
Camas, quamash [Shoshone name camas or quamash]
Tom A. Ranker & Tim Hogan
Herbs, perennial, from bulbs. Bulbs solitary or clustered, tunicate, ovoid to globose; tunic black or brown. Leaves basal, appearing whorled; blade linear, keeled. Inflorescences appearing terminal, racemose, bracteate; bracts sterile or subtending flowers, narrowly lanceolate. Flowers actinomorphic or zygomorphic; tepals 6, persistent, ± equal in 2 whorls of 3, distinct, violet, blue, or white, each 3–9-veined, lanceolate, ± twisted in drying; stamens 6; filaments inserted on receptacles at base of tepals, slender; anthers versatile, dehiscence introrse; ovary 3-locular, septal nectaries present, ovules 6–36; style filiform; stigma 3-lobed; pedicel spreading to incurving-erect in fruit. Fruits capsular, ovoid to ellipsoid or subglobose, dehiscence loculicidal. Seeds 6–36, lustrous black, obpyriform to ovoid-ellipsoid, 2–4 mm. x = 15.
Species 6 (6 in the flora): North America.
Cmassia has been associated with other western North American genera of Liliaceae such as Schoenolirion, Hastingsia, and especially Chlorogalum (F. Speta 1998; M. Pfosser and F. Speta 1999), but recent molecular evidence (D. J. Bogler and B. B. Simpson 1996; M. F. Fay and M. W. Chase 1996) suggests that it may be related instead to the Agavaceae. Furthermore, the bimodal, 2n = 30 karyology of Camassia (A. Fernandez and J. R. Davina 1991) is similar to that of Agavaceae (D. Satô 1935) and not that of Chlorogalum.
Camassia bulbs have been an important food staple for native Americans, especially in the Pacific Northwest (G. R. Downing and L. S. Furniss 1968; N. J. Turner and H. V. Kuhnlein 1983), where bulbs were dug and traded on large encampment meadows. Similarity to the poisonous bulbs of Zigadenus (“death camas”) is a concern where ranges of the two genera overlap. Several Camassia species are cultivated and represent a major horticultural contribution from the native flora.
Variation and intergradation of C. angusta and C. scilloides have been reviewed by T. A. Ranker and A. F. Schnabel (1986), as well as J. A. Steyermark (1961), R. O. Erickson (1941), and F. W. Gould (1942).
Gould, F. W. 1942. A systematic treatment of the genus Camassia Lindl. Amer. Midl. Naturalist 28: 712–742. Ranker, T. A. and A. F. Schnabel. 1986. Allozymic and morphological evidence for a progenitor-derivative species pair in Camassia (Liliaceae). Syst. Bot. 11: 433–445.