Camassia esculenta leichtlinii Baker
Camassia leichtlinii suksdorfii (Greenm.) C.L.Hitchc.
Camassia suksdorfii Greenm.
Quamasia leichtlinii (Baker) Coville
Quamasia suksdorfii (Greenm.) Piper
Common Name: Wild Hyacinth
Camassia leichtlinii is a herbaceous perennial plant growing from a solitary bulb 15 - 30mm in diameter; it produces a cluster of 3 - 9 grass-like leaves 20 - 60cm long and flowering stems 20 - 130cm tall[
The bulb was a staple food of the native N. Americans who would harvest it in quantity, trade it and also dry it for later use. The plant is often grown as an ornamental in the garden.
Camassia bulbs have long been an important food staple for native North Americans, especially in the Pacific Northwest of N. America, where the bulbs were dug and traded on large encampment meadows. However, the plants are superficially similar to the poisonous species of Zigadenus (known as ‘death camas’) and so great care should be taken in making a positive identification[
Western N. America - southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon to central California.
Wet meadows; at elevations from 100 - 2,400 metres[
]. Meadows, prairies and hillsides that are moist, at least in early spring.
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in almost any soil[
] and is tolerant of considerable neglect once it is established[
]. Prefers a moist, fertile, acidic, humus-rich soil in full sun, tolerating part shade[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Prefers a rather heavy loam[
] that has plenty of moisture in spring but does not remain wet over the winter[
]. Dislikes dry soils[
A very ornamental plant[
], there are many named varieties[
Plants often self-sow in the garden[
Plants take 3 - 4 years to commence flowering from seed[
A good bee plant[
Plants can be naturalized in damp grass, this should not be trimmed until mid to late summer when the bulbs have flowered and the leaves have died down[
Plant the bulbs 7 - 10cm deep in early autumn and then leave undisturbed[
]. The bulbs should be planted about 10 - 20cm deep[
Bulb - raw or cooked[
]. The bulb is about 3cm in diameter[
], eaten raw it has a mild, starchy flavour, but a gummy texture that reduces the enjoyment of it somewhat[
]. It is excellent when slow baked, however, developing a sweet flavour and making a very good potato substitute[
]. The cooked bulb can also be dried for later use[
] or ground into a powder and used as a thickener in soups or as an additive to cereal flours when making bread, cakes etc[
]. The bulbs can be boiled down to make a molasses, this was used on festival occasions by various Indian tribes[
]. One report says that the bulbs contain inulin (a starch that cannot be digested by humans) but that this breaks down when the bulb is cooked slowly to form the sugar fructose which is sweet and easily digested[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[
]. The seed can also be sown in a cold frame in spring[
]. It usually germinates in 1 - 6 months at 15°c, but it can be erratic[
]. Sow the seed thinly so that it does not need to be thinned and allow the seedlings to grow on undisturbed for their first year. Give an occasional liquid feed to ensure that the plants do not become nutrient deficient. When the plants are dormant in late summer, pot up the small bulbs putting 2 - 3 bulbs in each pot. Grow them on for another one or two years in a cold frame before planting them out when dormant in late summer.
Offsets in late summer. The bulb has to be scored in order to produce offsets.