Zigadenus elegans (Mountain Death Camas)
|Also known as:||White Camas|
|Habitat:||sun; rich moist prairies and meadows|
|Bloom season:||June - August|
|Plant height:||6 to 36 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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The erect flower stalk sometimes forms a single raceme but is more often a branched panicle up to a foot long, of 1-50 creamy white, star-like stalked flowers about ½ inch across. The 6 tepals (petals) are egg shaped, with a thick greenish yellow heart-shaped gland above the base creating a ring around the lighter or green tipped center. The cone-like style in the middle is split into three narrow arching stigmas, surrounded by 6 arching stamens with green to orange tips. Flower stalks up to 1 inch long are accompanied by a short lance shaped papery bract at the base that is often tinged with purple or pink.
Leaves and stems:
All parts of the Mountain Death Camas plant are poisonous from alkaloids more toxic than strychnine and can sicken livestock. Plants over-winter as a bulb that is very similar to the wild onion and a few settlers learned of its toxicity the hard way. Alkaloid poisoning is a terrible way to die! Formerly known as Anticlea elegans, Zigadenus elegans has recently moved from the Liliaceae (Lily) family to Melanthiaceae (Trillium). Some references list multiple varieties, with var. glaucus in Minnesota, but Flora of North America, our definitive guide, makes no distinction.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Pope County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota, Polk and Pope counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?