[Camas: The Genus Camassia East of the Cascade Mts. of Oregon and Washington]

Common Camas, Small Camas

Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora

Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora

Raceme of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

A close-up of the raceme of common camas (ssp. breviflora) as seen along Forest Service Road #16 in western Logan Valley, Malheur National Forest.........June 30, 2010. Note the yellow anthers of this variety.

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)Photo at right of Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora at Jackman Park C.G., the Steens Mt....8/3/95.
Characteristics:

Common Camas consists of a stout stem arising 20 to 70 cm from a large bulb. The ovoid bulb may be 2 to 5 cm long and 1 to 2.5 cm wide. The leaves are primarily basal, and are about half as long as the height of the stem, and may be 8 to 25 mm wide. They are linear in shape with parallel venation.

The inflorescence is an elongated raceme of closely to loosely spaced flowers. Individual flowers are pale to deep blue or violet colored. White (albino) individuals are possible. The tepals are narrowly elliptical in shape, 15 to 35 mm long and 2 to 8 mm wide. The six stamens have yellow to blue anthers, depending upon the variety.

Common Camas was a valuable food source for the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Today, its importance is as meadow wildflower in gardens. It is expecially effective grown in dense drifts. It self seeds readily, and care must be taken not to accidentally weed out the seedlings. Several years must pass before the seedlings are ready to flower, which is the case for most members of the lily family.


Subspecies of Common Camas Found East of the Cascade Mts:

ssp. breviflora - Widespread distribution across central and eastern Oregon and Washington.

ssp. quamash - Found across north-central and northeastern Oregon and much of Washington east of the Cascades.

ssp. utahensis - Found across eastern Oregon near the Idaho border.

ssp. walpolei - Found across central and southern Klamath and Lake Counties in Oregon.


Habitat:

Common camas lives in grassy areas which are moist in the spring and which dry up during the summer and fall.


Range:

Common camas is a widespread wildflower found from southern British Columbia along both sides of the Cascades south to California. Eastward, its range extends to southwest Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.


Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

Common camas blooming in a vernally moist wetland (amongst sagebrush, Aretemisia tridentata) at the head of a south branch of Little Cottonwood Creek just west of a pass along Arizona Creek Road in the Pueblo Mountains of southeastern Oregon.............June 1, 2012. Note the twisted, withering tepals, a characterisitc of ssp. breviflora. The withering tepals of ssp. guamash, which can also be in southeastern Oregon, do not twist over each other.

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

Common camas as seen in a vernally moist swale along the Steens Mountain North Loop Road at a point where the juniper forest abruptly transitions to sagebrush steppe.............June 2, 2012. The site is on the south side of the road just above a gate where there is also a stock pond.

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

This photo shows a close-up of the inflorescence of common camas as seen along Road #46 at Dougherty Springs in the northern Wallowa-Whitman N.F........June 26, 2008.

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

Common camas as seen in wetlands along the North Fork Crooked River and about one and one-quarter miles south of the junction of FS Roads #42 and #4215, Ochoco National Forest..........June 12, 2015.

Flower of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Flower of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

These 2 photos show close-ups of the flower of common camas (ssp. breviflora) as seen at Fish Lake on the Steens Mt........June 20, 2004. Note the yellow anthers of this variety.

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Inflorescence in fruit of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

Photo at left of Camassia quamash var. breviflora at Jackman Park C.G., the Steens Mt....August 3, 1995. The photo at right shows the inflorescence of common camas (var. breviflora) with maturing fruits as seen in wetlands at the junction of Forest Roads 42 and 4240, southeastern corner of Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco National Forest.......June 21, 2017.

Flower of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Flower of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

The photo above shows the flower of common camas as seen at Hog Lake, a BLM site east of Sprague, WA.........April 27, 2006.

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

The photo above shows common camas in a seep on the northern outskirts of Klickitat, OR..........April 13, 2007.

Inflorescence of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Inflorescence of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

Common camas as seen in moist meadows near the old Cold Springs Guard Station just east of Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco National Forest.........June 21, 2017.

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

Flower of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

What may be common camas (ssp. breviflora) as seen in wet meadows along FS Road #27 in Thompson Valley, Fremont National Forest..........May 19, 2016, if not ssp breviflora, it most likely would be ssp. quamash.

Flower of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - Sideview of flower of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora) - White-flowered variety of Common Camas, Small Camas: Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora (Synonym: Camassia quamash var. breviflora)

The photos above show close-up views common camas in a seep on the northern outskirts of Klickitat, OR.........April 13, 2007.

Paul Slichter