Looking across the vivid green of wet meadows and marshes, the deep blue patches of this flower are often conspicuous and beautiful. They grow from one to over two feet high, taller than the grasslike leaves, forming a loose cluster, with papery bracts. The flowers are from an inch and a half to over two inches across, the six divisions spreading out into a star. The buds are tinged with turquoise-blue and striped with purple, giving a fine iridescent effect, and the flowers, which fade very quickly, are often exceedingly handsome, varying in color from dark-blue to white, but usually deep, bright purplish-blue, with a green ovary, a long purple style and yellow anthers, with purple filaments. They are larger and handsomer in northern California than in Yosemite. Grizzly bears are fond of the bulbs and the Indians of the Northwest prized them as a delicacy, indeed the Nez Perce war in Idaho was caused by encroachments on a territory where they were abundant. They were cooked elaborately in pits, care being taken to avoid the poisonous bulbs of the Death Camass, which resemble them. The Indians also boil the bulbs in water and make good molasses from them, which they use on festive occasions. This is sometimes called Wild Hyacinth, but the name is poor, as it does not resemble a hyacinth in character.
Camass. Camassia quamash. LILY FAMILY. Liliaceae.
There are six kinds of Clintonia, of North America and Asia; with creeping rootstocks and a few, broad root-leaves; flowers without bracts, their divisions separate, equal or nearly so, each with a stamen at its base; style with two or three, inconspicuous lobes; fruit a berry. These plants were named in honor of De Witt Clinton, Governor of New York, a naturalist, interested in botany, so Thoreau need not have been so annoyed at their having been given this name.