Camassia leichtlinii

From Puget Prairie Plants
  • Scientific Name: Camassia leichtlinii
  • Family:  Asparagaceae
  • Common Names: great camas, large camas
  • Codon: CAMLEI

Photo by Rod Gilbert, 2005. Also featured on Main Page


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Viridiplantae
Phylum: Tracheophyta
Subphylum: Spermatophytina
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asparagales
Family: Asparagaceae
Genus: Camassia Lindl.
Species: Camassia leichtlinii (Baker) S. Watson



Scapose perennial herb growing from a bulb, up to 5 dm tall.[2] Leaves basal, linear, 3-9, up to 60 cm long.[3] Inflorescences racemose, to 20 cm long.[4] Flowers radially symmetrical; tepals 6, bluish purple, evenly distributed; stamens 6, yellow; pistil 3-carpellate with superior ovary, slender style and 3 stigmas.[5] Tepals twisting together to covary ovary when withering.[5] Capsule 3-celled, 15-25 mm.[2]

Bloom Period

April - May[2]


Prairies, seasonally moist, lowland meadows[6] Prefers nitrogen rich, heavy loam mixes, but tolerates other soil types.[7]


West of the Cascades, British Columbia to California.[2]


Wildlife-Bees use this plant Landscaping-A very ornamental plant[8], there are many named varieties. Use in meadows, grassy slopes and banks. Showy bloom with attractive seed heads. Very tough plant for exposed, hot dry sites once established (S. Bastin, personal communication). Use in containers or along pond edges (B. Costanzo, personal communication). First Nation-the bulb is about 3cm in diameter and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is a good substitute for a potatoe. The cooked bulb can also be dried for later use or ground into a powder and used as a thickener in soups or as an additive to cereal flours when making bread, cakes etc. The bulbs can be boiled down to make a molasses, this was used on festival occasions by various Indian tribes. One report says that the bulbs contain inulin (a starch that cannot be digested by humans) but that this breaks down when the bulb is cooked slowly to form the sugar fructose which is sweet and easily digested.[9] Other-This species can be confused with certain poisonous bulbs in the genus Zigadenus.[8]


A very easily grown plant, it succeeds in almost any soil and is tolerant of considerable neglect once it is established. Plants often self-sow. Plants can be naturalized in damp grass, this should not be trimmed until mid to late summer when the bulbs have flowered and the leaves have died down. Plant the bulbs 7 - 10cm deep in early autumn and then leave undisturbed. The bulbs should be planted about 20cm deep.[10]

Seeds are best sown as soon as they are ripe in a cold frame and can also be sown in a cold frame in spring. It usually germinates in 1 - 6 months at 15°c, but it can be erratic. Sow the seed thinly so that it does not need to be thinned and allow the seedlings to grow on undisturbed for their first year. Give an occasional liquid feed to ensure that the plants do not become nutrient deficient.[10]

Seed Storage-Store in a cool, dry place.

Fruit/Seed Dormancy and Treatment-then the plants are dormant in late summer, pot up the small bulbs putting 2 - 3 bulbs in each pot. Grow them on for another one or two years in a cold frame before planting them out when dormant in late summer. Offsets in late summer. The bulb has to be scored in order to produce offsets.

Camassia leichtlinii, photo Lisa Hintz


Seed sample from: 2011

Average Measurement: 3.3 x 2.2 x 2.1

Measurement Range: L: 3 - 3.75, W: 2 - 2.5, D: 1.75 - 2.25


Shape: Seed are narrower at hilum end, rounding off at opposite side. Hilum end ranges from tapered to pointy in shape.

Color: Seeds black, with conspicuous white hilum.

Surface: A wrinkled seam runs from hilum down the length of the seed in most. Seed is glossy, and wrinkled or bumpy.

Latitudinal Cross Section: elliptical Calei-ell.png

Longitudinal Cross Section: obovate Calei-obovate.png

Camassia leichtlinii, photo Lisa Hintz

Basic Explanations and Assumptions:

The dimensions for the seeds are length x width x depth. The location of the hilum is used as the base of the seed, and the length is measured from hilum to the opposite apex. Where a style is present, the length is measured from the hilum to the bottom of the style. Width is measured at a right angle to the length at the widest part. Depth is measured at a right angle to the intersection of height and width lines.

Measurements included are the mean average for each measurement of ten separate seeds.

All measurements in millimeters unless otherwise noted.

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  1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved from
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 WTU Herbarium, Burke Museum, & University of Washington. Retrieved from
  3. Flora of North America. Retrieved from
  4. Bowcutt, F., & Hamman, S. (2016). Vascular Plants of the South Sound Prairies. p. 117.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Hitchcock, C. L., Cronquist, A., Giblin, D., & Legler, B. et al. (2018). Flora of the Pacific Northwest: an illustrated manual. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 705.
  6. (Douglas et al., 2001).
  7. (Klinka et al., 1989).
  8. 8.0 8.1
  9. Turner. N. J. (1995). Food Plants of Coastal First Peoples. Vancouver: UBC Press.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Plants for a Future. Retrieved from