Thursday, June 4, 2009

Camassia leichtlinii

Here's a wonderful bulb, growing in the Liz Christy Garden: Camassia leichtlinii, or great camas.

Camas, also called quamash, is native to western north America and was historically used as a food source by Native Americans -- the bulb tastes (allegedely -- I've never eaten it) like sweet potato. In fact, the genus is responsible for the survival of Lewis & Clark during their westbound expedition (as noted in the book I've mentioned before -- Common to this Country).

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but when a species name has an -ii at the end, it's usually a clue that the plant is named after someone (for example, thunbergii is named after Thunberg, davidii is named after David, etc.). In this case, the species is named after Max Leichtlin, a 19th century German horticulturalist and botanist.

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