Mountain Death-Camas - Photos Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Mountain Death-Camas - Photos Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Mountain Death-Camas - Photos Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Mountain Death-Camas - Photos Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image 
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White Flowers ( Six or More Petals )
Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Mountain Death-Camas
Zigadenus elegans

Season: Mid-May to August
Habitat:
 Montane on both sides of Continental Divide
Height:
 20-60 cm

Description: This common white flower can be easily identified by its cluster of waxy, white, six petaled flowers. The stamens are greenish in colour. The leaves are grass-like, narrow and linear. The flowers are replaced by hard capsules with three lobes containing many seeds. To distinguish white camas from death camas (Z. venenosus), the flowers are much larger, 10-12 mm on white camas compared to 4-6 mm on death camas, and more loosely arranged on the spike.

Flower: Mountain death-camas is an exceedingly popular member of the lily family and has waxy-white to greenish-white flowers. Each flower has six petals (tepals) and they occur in loose to dense clusters (raceme) at the top of the smooth stem. The petals (tepals) are 7-10 mm long with a dark gland at their base.

Leaf: The leaves are linear, grass like and 8-30 cm long with a prominent central ridge (keel). The leaves vary from sharply pointed to gradually tapered. The leaves are primarily basal, with only a few stem leaves.

Fruit/Seed: The seeds are contained within a 1-5 to 2 cm egg-shaped three-lobed capsule.

Similar Species: Meadow death-camas (Z. venenosus) is also common throughout the Rocky Mountain region. It is distinguished from the more common mountain death-camas by its denser clusters of slightly smaller flowers. Meadow death-camas is usually 20-35 cm tall with smaller flowers (1-1.5 cm across). If you look closely at the ovary, the petals (tepals) of the meadow death-camas are attached at the base of the ovary (superior) rather than part way up the ovary as in the mountain death-camas (partially inferior).

Range: Mountain-death camas is found throughout the Rocky Mountains, east to the Great Lakes and extending south into California, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico and even Texas. Meadow death-camas is more limited in range, stretching from the southern British Columbia, through the southern Rockies (Banff National Park south), east to southern Saskatchewan and south to California, the Dakotas, Nebraska and Colorado.

While mountain death-camas is slightly poisonous to people and livestock, meadow death-camas is VERY deadly. Meadow death-camas is one of the most poisonous springtime plants. The bulbs, leaves and flowers contain alkaline poisons that may be even more deadly than strychnine. Horses, cattle and sheep have died from eating these plants, and even honey bees have been poisoned by the nectar and pollen.

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005

 

 

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