E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene
common camas (small camas)
(Previously in Liliaceae)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Jamie Fenneman  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #9149)

E-Flora BC Static Map
Distribution of Camassia quamash
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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

Species Information

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Perennial herb from a deep, egg-shaped bulb 2-4 cm long; flowering stems 20-70 cm tall, smooth.
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.
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.
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.
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

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the Spring
Source:  The USDA

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.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Camassia quamash

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 20 145 382
Slope Gradient (%) 0 28 90
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
19 181 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 1 7
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(18), CWH(3)

Ecological Indicator Information

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.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool mesothermal.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References