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Plants in the Wild

I Sing the Wildflower Blue

The aqua-tinged, smoky-blue bud tip of native camassia. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Never mind the body electric, mine doesn't seem to much sizzle and sing anymore, but it's no small compensation to have the time, patience and appetite for hanging out with wildflowers which, this very week along the Columbia Gorge, have burst into audacious blues. We're talking a color wave of genera that includes nothing less than lupine (a dozen different species!), forget-me-not, larkspur (a half dozen!) and pools of multi-hued camassia which I most enjoy in bud.

Doing its very best to impersonate a delphinium, behold the Northwest native Camassia. We gotta million of them. Question: is this simply C. quamash or subsp. breviflora? The pictures/descriptions in my wildflower guide don't quite settle the dispute. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

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photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Camas is the Pacific Northwest for many people, certainly for my neighbor's mother who saw fields of them when she arrived in Oregon (a young woman traveling alone from Arkansas) and decided this was where she belonged. And camas has kept untold thousands of indigenous people alive over the millennia, even the not-so-indigenous as described in this excerpt from the Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes:

On their trek to the west coast, Lewis and Clark saw vast meadows filled with the blue flowers of camas, noting that they looked like lakes in the distance. The hospitable indigenous people rescued the expedition from starvation offering them, among other foods, baked camas bulbs...Humans cannot easily digest raw camas blubs, so they were always cooked first...No matter how they were prepared, poor Meriwether Lewis found the bulbs indigestible, but they helped keep the Corps of Discovery alive...

...unlike the meadow death camas, Zigadenus venenosus, which is also blooming this week. One of my field guides, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest notes that much to their later upset, members of the L&C expedition ate this bulb as well.

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So, I showed you, now you show me. Natives in the woods, on the roads, by the stream? Post those pix at the Talking Plant Flickr Group and I'll share the best on the blog. If you're not flickr friendly yet, here's how.

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