We love our native plants and when they have a history tied to their appearance it is even better. One of those plants is the native Camas [Camassia quamash]. It’s a plant that has been used by the native population since before the Lewis and Clark expedition. This spring blooming bulb is in full swing right now and can be found in marshy meadows around the area. [There is] a great field of them growing wild at Cammasia Natural Area in West Linn.
[Camas] was one of the major foods of the Native American people that lived in the Northwest. The bulb was harvested in the spring and provided a source of carbohydrates to the tribes…They harvested only the blue flowering camas, because the white flowering kind could make you sick. They were so happy with the return of the camas that it is one of the celebrated foods of the spring ‘first foods’ ceremony.
This plant is also one that looks as good as it tastes. Local gardeners will find it easy to grow. It doesn’t mind the moist soils of the spring, but prefers the drier soils of the summer. [Editor’s note: They like their feet wet in winter and early spring, but need to dry out after flowering,] You can find it at a lot of the local garden centers, but [GardenTime TV] found a large selection at Bosky Dell Natives.
[Editor’s notes: Wanting more native plants in my yard and having squishy wet soil in the spring, I thought planting the bulbs in the outer edges of my grass would be the perfect place for a swath of the lovely blue Camus. The conditions suited the plant, but the timing of its growth and bloom wasn’t too good. Camus grows just as the grass starts going crazy and needs mowing. I either couldn’t mow and my grass went way out of control—to the point I had to cut the grass by hand—or I mowed and didn’t get to see the bulbs bloom. I may try agai, but this time I will place the bulbs outside the boundaries of the grass! Portland Nursery has some good information about Cammasia quamash, Common Camas, and Cammasia leichtlinii, known as Great Camus on their website.