Toxicoscordion venenosum

Death Camas

Toxicoscordion venenosum (S. Watson), syn. Zigadenus venenosum (Brasher 2009), is not an edible geophyte, but rather an extremely poisonous perennial herb. Toxicoscordion venenosum is colloquially called death-camas for its close resemblance to the other Camassia species (Turner 2007:181). The flowers are small and cream-colored, growing in a tight, pointed luster. The bulbs resemble onions but do not have the common onion smell. 

Bulbs have a black tunic are very similar in appearance to other Interior Northwest bulbs, ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 cm in length and 0.75-1 cm in width.

Cultural Narrative: 

Death camas is considered extremely toxic by all groups. Turner et al. (1980) report that the Okanagan and St’at’imc used the mashed bulbs as an arrow poison.

WARNING: All parts of this plant is poisonous - do not eat! Death camas may be confused with other Camassia spp. (camas) plants - always be careful with identifications.

Traditional Knowledge: 

Bryce et al. (2019) shared that in coastal fields, death camas was annually rotated through camas plots (Camassia spp.) as a means of marking harvesting ground ownership.

Location Description: 

Vernally wet meadows, often in proximity to Camassia quamash (common or black camas).