Great Camas is the larger and some say showier cousin to common Camas (Cammasia quamash ssp. maxima). Its found throughout the western valleys of the state. Rising to 2′ tall in mid spring the petals of great Camas are not only larger they are stiffer as well. The large star shaped flowers open from the base to the top. They range greatly in color from pale blue to the most common dark blue. Its a luminous color that beckons pollinators. Small black hover flies gather on the flowers to collect pollen. Forms increasing colonies in rich soil that retains moisture. Its often seen in winter wet areas, but it can be found under oaks and firs in woodlands as well. It grows and blooms simultaneously with its common associates, Sidalcea malviflora ssp. virgata and occasionally even with Iris tenax (Oregon Iris). Its most striking neighbors in the wild are wild Parsnip (Hieracleum maximum) as well as Ranunculus occidentalis (Western Buttercup). Leaves precede the flowers and the whole plant goes cleanly summer dormant after seed set. Very adapted to heavy soils. No supplemental irrigation is required once established. In the wild it is found from full sun to quite a bit of shade on the verge of woodlands. Oregon native plant.
Common Camas one of the wests great wild flowers. ‘Maxima’ is the form that is most common in the Willamette Valley. In April to June meadows, glens, and floodplains turn sky blue. Occurs natively in vernally wet sites, that means that part of the winter it is submerged or very saturated. However, it does thrive in upland situations in heavy clay soils that are sodden for at least half the year. Prior to European development first nation people relied on this starchy bulb as a food source. They managed it by low intensity fires which cleared away the competition but did not injure the deep bulb. In turn the Camas thrived. They ate it baked or steamed like a small potato. An important pollinator plant that also attracts some critically endangered Willamette Valley butterflies. Nice cut flower. The spike of flowers opens at the base and moves to the top. To 20″ tall in bloom. The whole plant goes quickly dormant with summer heat. Leaves emerge in early spring and precede the flowers. Full sun. Common associated plants are Ranunculus occidentalis and Hosackia gracilis. (Photo credit Guy Meacham) Oregon native plant.