The West Coast’s Contribution to Spring Bulbs
Camassia or camas lilies are western North American native bulbs that occur from southern British Columbia to California and inland into the western mountains. They form spikes typically one to three feet tall of starry, lily-like flowers in white and various shades of blue including sky blues, lavender blues, and dark blues. They have long, strap-like leaves. Bulbs can bulk up over time forming attractive clumps.
There are three species that are most commonly available in cultivation. C. quamash is the common camas usually with mid blue flowers and a daintier habit than the other species. It is quite widespread in distribution from BC to California and inland to Alberta, Montana, and Wyoming. The bulbs were used as a food source by various native peoples and are well known in the Garry oak meadows of southern Vancouver Island where there is evidence that the First Nations peoples of this region may have managed populations using prescribed vegetation burns to maintain good habitat.
Camassia quamash ‘Orion’ is a gorgeous selection of our true blue BC native with starry flowers on tall spires.
Camassia quamash is a gorgeous true blue BC native with starry, lily-like flowers on slender stems in spring from a tuft of grass like foliage.
C. cusickii or Cusick’s is native to Oregon and Idaho and is typically icy blue in the wild though other shades can be found and are cultivated.
Camassia cusickii ‘Zwanenburg’ has two to three foot spires adorned with royal blue stars.
Camassia cusickii has star-shaped, pale icy blue flowers on stems from two to three feet in height.
C. leichtlinii or great camas is the other species that occurs naturally in BC though it is less common and only known from the southern end of Vancouver Island. It can reach up to four feet tall.
Camassia leichtlinii ‘Alba’ has elegant spires covered with masses of star-shaped white flowers.
Camassia leichtlinii ‘Blue Heaven’ has elegant spires covered with masses of star-shaped icy blue flowers.
Camassia leichtlinii ‘Caerulea’ has elegant spires covered with masses of star-shaped blue to lavender-blue flowers.
Camas are native to seasonally moist meadows and open areas that often dry out in the summer. They are important plants for pollinating insects especially native bees, hover flies, and beetles. They are easy to grow in average garden conditions but especially where soils are moist in winter and spring and dry in summer which mimics their native habitats. They are hardy to zones 3 or 4.
Camassia leichtlinii ‘Sacajawea’ has elegant spires covered with masses of star-shaped white flowers atop variegated foliage.
Camassia leichtlinii ‘Semiplena’ is a gorgeous double-flowered form of great camas with white flowers.
At Phoenix Perennials, we offer a variety of camas lilies each year for pre-ordering through the summer and fall for pick-up or shipping in late September and early October. Should supplies last, we may also have them available potted up in early spring.