This gorgeous true blue BC native has starry lily-like flowers on slender stems in spring from a tuft of grass-like foliage. This species was an important food crop of the First Nations cultures that lived in and around the southern coastal parts of our province.
Garry oak meadows and rock outcrops. Coastal mountain forests and wet meadows inland. Marshy meadows in coniferous forest to 2300m.
Note Author: Gary Lewis, Phoenix Perennials
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General: Perennial herb from a deep, egg-shaped bulb 2-4 cm long; flowering stems 20-70 cm tall, smooth.
Leaves: Basal leaves several to numerous, linear-lanceolate and grass-like, to 50 cm long, 1-3 cm wide, smooth, sheathing at the base, the margins entire; stem leaves lacking.
Flowers: Inflorescence a terminal raceme of 5 to many, stalked flowers, the stalks 1-2 cm long, spreading in flower, ascending to erect in fruit; flowers pale to deep blue, rarely white, weakly bilaterally symmetric, of 6 similar, distinct tepals, the tepals 15-40 mm long, 2-8 mm wide; stamens 6, anthers yellow to violet; pistil 1, 3-chambered.
Fruits: Capsules, egg-shaped to oblong, cross-ridged, 1-2.5 cm long; fruiting stalks shorter than the bracts, ascending to erect, curved in towards stem; seeds several to many, shiny black, 2-4 mm long.
Notes: Two subspecies are known from BC:
1. Tepals 3- to 5-veined, mostly less than 6 mm wide, usually less than 30 mm long; stalks appressed in fruit; plants from the dry interior........................ ssp. quamash
1. Tepals 5- to 9-veined, mostly more than 6 mm wide, usually more than 30 mm long; stalks ascending to somewhat spreading in fruit; plants from the coast....................... ssp. maxima Gould
1. Tepals (petal-like segments) twisted together around ovaries after flower wither; flowers more or less radially symmetric; fruiting stalks longer than the bracts........................ C. leichtlinii subsp. suksdorfii
1. Tepals spreading apart, not twisted together around ovaries after flowers wither; flowers weakly bilaterally symmetric; with 5 tepals curving upward and 1 pointing downward; fruiting stalks shorter than the bracts.....................C. quamash
Habitat / Range
Mesic to vernally moist meadows and grasslands in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; locally frequent on SE Vancouver Island (ssp. azurea rare in peatlands on W Vancouver Island), the Gulf Islands and SE BC; E to AB and S to MT, ID and WA.
Shade-intolerant, submontane to montane, Western North American forb distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Species occurs in maritime to submaritime summer-dry cool mesothermal climates on moderately dry to fresh, nitrogenrich soils (Moder and Mull humus forms). Scattered to plentiful in open-canopy Garry oak stands on water-shedding sites; occurrence decreases with increasing elevation and precipitation. Also inhabits meadowlike communities where early spring moisture is followed by mid-summer drought; occasionally found around vernal pools, springs, and intermittent streams.
Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2020. E-Flora BC:
Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia [eflora.bc.ca]. Lab for
Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British
Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed:
2020-08-12 8:37:10 AM
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