This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(Quamash or Camass is the Indian name). Sometimes written Quamasia. Liliaceae. Camass. West American spring-flowering bulbs.
Leaves all radical, long-lance-shaped, sheathing, from a true bulb that is pointed and with a rounded rather flattened base: stems erect, 2-3 ft., bearing many bracted blossoms that open from the bottom of the raceme upward, in long succession: flowers blue, purple, white or cream, with 6 spreading 3-7-nerved segments,
6 thread-like filaments, filiform style, and 3-angled, 3-valved, several-seeded caps. - Five or 6 species in the temperate regions of W. N. Amer. from Cent. Calif, to Brit. Col. and east to Texas and Ark. They have resemblances to Scilla, but are much handsomer. The bulbs produce no offsets unless wounded. All the species vary greatly in width of leaves, size and number of flowers, so that definite figures mean little. The large bulb and broad bluish leaves of C. Cusickii, the heavy stem, regular flowers, and twisted old segments of C. Leicht-linii, the irregular flower and drooping segments of C. Quamash, and the time of flowering of C. Howellii, are good general characters to distinguish them.
Fig. 756. Camassia Cusickii. (flowers X 1/2)
Camassias are natives of rich meadows, very wet in winter and spring but dry in summer. Water often stands on the surface at flowering time. While the very best success can perhaps be attained by giving them a rather heavy soil with abundant moisture in the early season, they are most amenable to cultivation and thrive in any loam (only avoiding too rank manures), and they are perfectly hardy. They have been thoroughly tested throughout the region from Illinois east. Plant in early fall, from 3 to 4 inches apart and 3 to 6 inches deep, and do not disturb thereafter. As cut-flowers, they are excellent as they open in long succession. Seeds grow readily, but from three to four years are required to make flowering plants.
Cusickii, Wats. Fig. 756. Bulbs very large (weighing 4-8 ozs.): leaves numerous, broad, glaucous, somewhat undulate (15 in. long by 1 1/2 in. wide): stem often 3 ft. high: flowers 30-100, very pale delicately blue; segments spreading, crinkled at base, faintly 3-5-nerved. Ore. G.F. 1:174 (adapted in Fig. 756). - The very large bulb and broader and more numerous leaves easily distinguish this species. Very easily grown.
Common Camass. Fig. 757. This species varies greatly; some forms are low and slender, others 2-3 ft. high, stout and many-flowered; it can be distinguished by the irregular perianth in which 5 segments are more or less on one side and 1 on the other: leaves 2/3in. broad or less: flowers 10-40, varying from almost white to intense ultramarine in the varieties; segments 3-5-nerved and a little longer than the stamens, narrow and channeled at the base; pedicels not exceeding the flowers: caps, ovate-oblong, obtuse, transversely veined. Calif, to Utah and north to Brit. Col. B.R. 1486. F.S. 3:275. Gn. 46:338 and p. 339-Bulb cooked and eaten by the Indians. The flowers vary to white. The large ultramarine form is the one in the trade. The withered segments fall down about the pedicel irregularly.
Leichtlinii, Wats. Stout, often 3 ft. or even more in height: flowers white, cream-colored, blue or purple, nearly regular; stamens and style ascending; segments broad and flattened at the base, usually 5-7-nerved: caps, oblong-ovate, emarginate, obliquely veined. The withered segments of the perianth twist about the caps, like bonbons; this is an infallible distinctive mark of the species. C. Leitchlinii is not common, but is distributed from Mendocino Co., Calif., to Brit. Col. B.M. 6287 (as C. esculenta variety Leichtlinii, Baker). - In Mendocino Co., a clear blue form grows rarely in mountain meadows. In the Umpqua Valley, Ore., the type is clear cream approaching white. In the same region and farther north, a very large deep blue or purple form is found, while in Brit. Col., the cream-colored form again appears but is rare. At their best, the stems are stiff and heavy, the flowers large and many, and the masses of bloom approach the Eremurus in beauty and are even finer in separate flowers C. Leichtlinii is the finest of all camassias.
Several color forms are described, as variety atroviolacea, deep purple, and others.
Howellii, Wats. Bulb rather small: leaves few, 1 ft. long and less than 1/2in. wide: stem often 2 ft. high, many-flowered, with spreading pedicels twice or more the length of the linear bracts: flowers pale purple, opening in the afternoon, the segments 1/2in. long, 3-5-nerved; pedicels longer than the flowers: caps, small, broadly ovate and very obtuse. S. Ore. Intro, by Pilking-ton & Co., 1892.
Robins. (C Fraseri, Torr.). Scape 12-18 in. high: leaves keeled: flowers light blue, smaller than in C. Quamash; segments 3-nerved; pedicels mostly longer than flowersPa., west and south. B.M. 1574 (as Scilla esculenta).
Variety angusta (C. angusta, Hort.). Very slender, and leaves narrower (1/4in. wide): flowers smaller, 1/3 or 1/4in. long. La. and Ark. to Texas. Carl Purdy.
Fig. 757. Camassia Quamash. (X 1/2)