Meadow death camas at Catherine Creek, Columbia River Gorge..........April 9, 2006. Note the single flowers arising from the scape, which helps identify this species.
Meadow death camas is a beautiful but deadly lily. It consists of a single stem arising to 50 cm from a ovoid bulb (2-3 cm long). The leaves are basal, linear in shape with parallel venation, and may range in length from 10 to 40 cm long. The leaves are keeled, and may be somewhat V-shaped in cross-section, especially near the base.
The inflorescence is a primarily a short raceme, rarely longer than 15 to 20 cm. The pedicels are strongly ascending. The flowers consist of six unequal tepals, all of which are separate. These are no longer than 5 mm long.
To identify this plant from the similar Zigadenus paniculatus, meadow death camas has the shorter inflorescence, and where the inflorescence may be of similar length, meadow death camas has single flowers arising from the stem (see photos), while panicled death camas has clusters of flowers arising from the stem, especially in its lower inflorescence.
As mentioned above, this plant is deadly to ingest. It is sometimes found interspersed with the edible camas, and native tribes often removed it from the camas beds while both were in bloom, as the bulbs of both are similar.
A widespread species, meadow death camas may be found on coastal "prairies" and on the grassy bluffs above the sea to the more arid prairie hillsides, sagebrush slopes and into montane forest openings.
Meadow death camas is found from southern British Columbia to Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan in the north, south along both sides of the Cascades to Baja California, and east to the Great Plains of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado.
In the Columbia River Gorge, it may be found between the elevations of 100'-2500' from adjacent to Crown Point in the west to near Horsethief Butte in the east.