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SPECIES:  Camassia quamash
Small camas. Image by William & Wilma Follette, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/USDA NRCS. 1992. Western wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. West Region, Sacramento.



SPECIES: Camassia quamash
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Howard, Janet L. 1993. Camassia quamash. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: On 17 April 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: common camas to: small camas. Images were also added. ABBREVIATION: CAMQUA SYNONYMS: Camassia esculenta Lindl. Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene subsp. teapeae (H. St. John) H. St. John Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene var. azurea (A. Heller) C.L. Hitchc. Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene var. breviflora (Gould) C.L. Hitchc. Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene var. intermedia (Gould) C.L. Hitchc. Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene var. linearis (Gould) J.T. Howell Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene var. maxima (Gould) B. Boivin Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene var. quamash Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene var. utahensis (Gould) C.L. Hitchc. Quamassia quamash (Pursh) Coville NRCS PLANT CODE: CAQU2 COMMON NAMES: small camas blue camas camas camas lily common camas quamash western camas TAXONOMY: The scientific name of small camas is Camassia quamash (Pursh) Greene (Liliaceae) [8,12,13,25]. Recognized subspecies are as follows [13,24]: Camassia quamash subsp. azurea (A. Heller) Gould Camassia quamash subsp. breviflora Gould Camassia quamash subsp. intermedia Gould Camassia quamash subsp. linearis (Pursh) Greene Camassia quamash subsp. maxima Gould Camassia quamash subsp. quamash Camassia quamash subsp. utahensis (Pursh) Greene, Utah's small camas Camassia quamash subsp. walpolei (Piper) Gould, Walpole's small camas LIFE FORM: Forb FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Camassia quamash
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Small camas is distributed from southern British Columbia and southwestern Alberta east to Montana and south to California, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming [3,4]. An introduced population occurs near Haines, Alaska [16].
Distribution of small camas. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, January 29] [24].

   FRES20  Douglas-fir
   FRES21  Ponderosa pine
   FRES23  Fir - spruce
   FRES24  Hemlock - Sitka spruce
   FRES26  Lodgepole pine
   FRES27  Redwood
   FRES28  Western hardwoods
   FRES29  Sagebrush
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub
   FRES36  Mountain grasslands
   FRES37  Mountain meadows
   FRES41  Wet grasslands
   FRES42  Annual grasslands

     AK  CA  ID  MT  OR  UT  WA  WY  AB  BC

    1  Northern Pacific Border
    2  Cascade Mountains
    3  Southern Pacific Border
    4  Sierra Mountains
    5  Columbia Plateau
    6  Upper Basin and Range
    8  Northern Rocky Mountains
    9  Middle Rocky Mountains
   10  Wyoming Basin

   K001  Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest
   K002  Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest
   K003  Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest
   K004  Fir - hemlock forest
   K005  Mixed conifer forest
   K006  Redwood forest
   K007  Red fir forest
   K008  Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
   K009  Pine - cypress forest
   K010  Ponderosa shrub forest
   K011  Western ponderosa forest
   K012  Douglas-fir forest
   K014  Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest
   K015  Western spruce - fir forest
   K026  Oregon oakwoods
   K028  Mosaic of K002 and K026
   K029  California mixed evergreen forest
   K030  California oakwoods
   K033  Chaparral
   K034  Montane chaparral
   K037  Mountain-mahogany - oak scrub
   K047  Fescue - oatgrass
   K048  California steppe
   K049  Tule marshes
   K050  Fescue - wheatgrass
   K051  Wheatgrass - bluegrass
   K063  Foothills prairie

   205  Mountain hemlock
   211  White fir
   213  Grand fir
   217  Aspen
   218  Lodgepole pine
   229  Pacific Douglas-fir
   230  Douglas-fir - western hemlock
   231  Port-Orford-cedar
   232  Redwood
   233  Oregon white oak
   234  Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone
   243  Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
   244  Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir
   245  Pacific ponderosa pine
   246  California black oak
   247  Jeffrey pine
   249  Canyon live oak
   250  Blue oak - gray pine
   255  California coast live oak
   256  California mixed subalpine


In the Intermountain region and the northern Rocky Mountains, small 
camas is usually found in mountain grassland and prairie communities.
West of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada crest, it occurs in both forest and
grassland types [10,13,22].


SPECIES: Camassia quamash
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Livestock, elk, moose, and caribou graze small camas [23]. Pigs consume the bulbs [6]. PALATABILITY: Small camas provides fair to good graze for sheep and cattle [23]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Small camas forage is poor in energy and protein value [26]. The nutrient composition of fresh bulbs (per gram dry weight) is as follows [14]: calories 3.90 calcium (mg) 1.76 protein (g) 0.13 iron (mg) 0.23 carbohydrate (g) 0.80 magnesium (mg) 0.40 lipid (g) 0.03 zinc (mg) 0.03 COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Small camas was planted for mountain grassland restoration in western Washington, using bulbs salvaged from a nearby area undergoing subdivision [1]. Plants can also be established by fall planting of seed [20]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: Small camas bulbs were eaten by western Indians, trappers, and early settlers [3,6,22,23]. Many western Indian tribes also used the bulbs as a trade item [22]. Small camas is planted as an ornamental [3]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Small camas decreases under sheep grazing [22].


SPECIES: Camassia quamash
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Small camas is a native perennial forb. Its peduncle is from 8 to 20 inches (20-50 cm) in height and supports a terminal raceme. The peduncle and basal leaves attach to a bulb that is up to 1.5 inches (6 cm) across. Its roots are fibrous. The fruit is a three-celled capsule with 5 to 10 seeds per cell [12,13,23]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Small camas reproduces from seed and bulb offsets [18,22]. Clones flower at age 2 or 3 years [18]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Small camas grows on sites that are moist to wet in spring but dry by late spring or summer [4,6,8,12,25]. It is commonly found near vernal pools, springs, and intermittent streams [10]. It occurs at elevations ranging from sea level to 7,000 feet (2,134 m) in California [13] and from 6,240 to 7,950 feet (1,890-2,410 m) in Utah [25]. Associated species in the Intermountain region are snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), Douglas grass-widow (Sisyrinchium douglasii), Hooker balsamroot (Balsamorhiza hookeri), rush pussytoes (Antennaria luzuloides), Wyeth buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides), and western yarrow (Achillea millefolium) [17]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Small camas is shade intolerant [10]. In forested areas, it is found on open sites created by disturbance. In grasslands and meadows, it is most prevalent in initial and early seral communities but also occurs in later seres [1,10,22]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Small camas flowers from May to July, depending upon elevation and snow cover [4,9,12]. Leaves die and seeds are dispersed from late May to August [22].


SPECIES: Camassia quamash
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Soil insulates the meristematic tissue in small camas bulbs from damage by fire [22]. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: Geophyte, growing points deep in soil


SPECIES: Camassia quamash
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Fire presumably top-kills small camas. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT: NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Small camas on the Palouse prairie of eastern Washington increases with frequent fire [1]. Data regarding small camas postfire recovery are lacking. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE: NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Because growth and flowering occur in spring and early summer, short-interval fires in spring or early summer would probably reduce small camas populations. Northwest Coast Indians reportedly set fires annually. This optimized small camas production by maintaining an open prairie [20,21].

References: Camassia quamash

1. Antieau, Clayton J.; Gaynor, Peggy E. 1990. Native grassland restoration and creation in western Washington. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(1): 34-35. [14166]
2. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]
3. Dayton, William A. 1960. Notes on western range forbs: Equisetaceae through Fumariaceae. Agric. Handb. 161. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 254 p. [767]
4. Delane, Teresa M.; Sharp, William H. 1976. The blue camas, Camassia quamash, a plant new to Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 90(1): 79-80. [23843]
5. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
6. Gabriel, Herman W., III. 1976. Wilderness ecology: the Danaher Creek Drainage, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. 224 p. Dissertation. [12534]
7. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]
8. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur; Ownbey, Marion. 1969. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 1: Vascular cryptograms, gymnosperms, and monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 p. [1169]
9. Idaho State Department of Commerce and Development. [n.d.]. Idaho wild flowers. Boise, ID: Idaho State Department of Commerce and Development. Pamphlet. 10 p. [17999]
10. Klinka, K.; Krajina, V. J.; Ceska, A.; Scagel, A. M. 1989. Indicator plants of coastal British Columbia. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia Press. 288 p. [10703]
11. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
12. Lackschewitz, Klaus. 1991. Vascular plants of west-central Montana--identification guidebook. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-227. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 648 p. [13798]
13. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1905 p. [6155]
14. Norton, H. H.; Hunn, E. S.; Martinsen, C. S.; Keely, P. B. 1984. Vegetable food products of the foraging economies of the Pacific Northwest. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 14(3): 219-228. [10327]
15. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
16. Scoggan, H. J. 1978. The flora of Canada. Ottawa, Canada: National Museums of Canada. (4 volumes) [18143]
17. Skovlin, Jon M.; Edgerton, Paul J.; McConnell, Burt R. 1983. Elk use of winter range as affected by cattle grazing, fertilizing, and burning in southeastern Washington. Journal of Range Management. 36(2): 184-189. [2154]
18. Sperka, Marie. 1973. Growing wildflowers: A gardener's guide. New York: Harper & Row. 277 p. [10578]
19. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 10 p. [20090]
20. Turner, Nancy Chapman; Bell, Marcus A. M. 1971. The ethnobotany of the Coast Salish Indians of Vancouver Island. Economic Botany. 25: 63-104. [21014]
21. Turner, Nancy Chapman; Bell, Marcus A. M. 1973. The ethnobotany of the southern Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia. Economic Botany. 27: 257-310. [21015]
22. Turner, Nancy J.; Kuhnlein, Harriet V. 1983. Camas (Camassia spp.) and riceroot (Fritillaria spp.): two liliaceous "root' foods of the Northwest Coast Indians. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 13: 199-219. [20526]
23. USDA Forest Service. 1937. Range plant handbook. Washington, DC. 532 p. [2387]
24. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262]
25. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
26. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]

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