Camassia leichtlinii ssp. suksdorfii
Synonyms: Camassia leichtlinii var. suksdorfii, Camassia suksdorfii
Great camas is an attractive wildflower which when establish, creates drifts of blue and white in the naturalized yard or in a moist corner of the yard. Be aware that it self sows its seed in prolific quantities and could take over other smaller plants (especially those in a rockery).
The erect single stems are stout and arise from a single bulb to a height of 30-50 cm or higher. The bulb ranges from 1.5-3 cm thick and 2-4 cm long. The several basal leaves are up to 60 cm long and range from 7-20 mm wide.
The raceme at flowering is 10-20 cm long with numerous white, light blue, or deep blue-violet flowers. Individual flowers are regular and have 6 equally shaped and sized tepals which range from 2.5-3.5 cm long and 5-10 mm wide. The tepals are 7- to 9- veined and twist above the ovary, covering it as they dry (See photo below.). The anthers range from 4-7 mm long. The seed capsules range from 15-25 mm long.
Similar species: Common Camas, Camassia quamash . The tepals of this species are slightly irregular with the lower tepal often curved outwards from the stem. The tepals wither separately and do not cover the ovary.
Camas is an interesting perennial wildflower for the open meadow, flower bed, or open woodland garden. Numerous wildflower nurseries on the west side of the Cascades offer both the great and common camas and occasionally the much larger Cusick's camas which is naturally found in northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington. Flowering usually lasts several weeks to perhaps a month before plants set seed. It is perhaps a good idea to plant native annuals (like Clarkias) at their base as they will ascend and hide the browning vegetation of the camas later in the spring. Camas should survive in USDA Zones 3 to 8.
Great camas may be found in vernally moist meadows, ditches, prairies, and hillsides.
Great camas is found from southern British Columbia south to the west of the Cascades to southwestern California and Sierran California.
In the Columbia River Gorge it may be found between the elevations of 100'-2000' from the western approaches to the Gorge east to near Rowena, OR and Lyle, WA.