Camassia quamash: Camas

Easy to grow, a stunning addition to your sunny border, a striking blue spire rising to the sky in your spring garden, a native plant that is easy to grow and free of most pests and predators, Camassia is one of the best flowers to grace the Pacific Northwest!

Two species are widespread and available to today's gardeners. C. quamash, or Common Camas, is the one most frequently found naturally in the region and C. leichtlinii, or Great Camas, is a larger but less abundant variety that inhabits similar growing locations and conditions. They are often mistaken for each other, but there are a couple notable differences in the flowering habit for those who are curious to know: The tepals (think petals) of C. leichtlinii, as they wither after bloom, eventually twist together to cover and protect the fruit. Those of C. quamash don’t do this, and when in bloom the C. quamash has 5 tepals (petals) distinctively curving upward, with the 6th curved downward.

Arbutus menziesii 5822

After they bloom, resist the urge to cut back the flower stem, because they will self-seed in undisturbed soil – those little grassy blades surrounding your Camas plants next spring are the self-seeded offspring. Have patience, in 3-4 years they too will bloom in all their beautiful jewel-blue hues!

Camas are a great plant to naturalize in your garden. If you’ve already tossed narcissus bulbs hither and yon to naturalize an area of your landscape, consider adding the native Camas into the mix. It would be a beautiful combination!

A great place to see Camassia in its native habitat is at the Camassia Natural Area. Located just a few miles outside Portland it is a 26 acre natural area preserved by the Nature Conservancy which includes a large Camas field that comes into bloom in April through early May.

Visit the Oregon Camassia Natural Area.