Photos by Cheryl Landes
In mid- to late April and sometimes early May, dainty blue and white flowers with yellow stamens bloom at Lacamas Regional Park in Camas, Washington. These tiny flowers are called Camas lilies, the town’s namesake.
The lilies are scattered throughout the park, but the biggest concentration is in a field at the top of a hill off the park’s main trail. When the lilies are full bloom, the field resembles a light blue carpet.
Camas lilies also grow in southwestern British Columbia and Alberta. The lily bulbs were a staple in Native Peoples’ diets until the 20th century and the second most traded item behind salmon. The natives gathered the large Camas lily bulbs, ranging from five to eight years old, and either steamed or dried them. Dried bulbs were stored for the winter or used in trade.
The steamed bulbs have a sweet taste similar to baked pears, prunes, or sweet chestnuts. Dried bulbs were served with seal or whale meat and fish oil.
When potatoes and other root vegetables were introduced to the Native Peoples, the tradition of harvesting and cooking Camas lily bulbs almost disappeared. More natives have started growing the lilies again in their community gardens.
There are two types of Camas lilies. The edible plants, Camassia quamash and Camassia leichtlinii, are either blue or white with a chestnut brown membrane with darker skin that can be rubbed off easily. The Death Camas, Zigadenus venenosus, is toxic and has compact, cream-colored flowers and bulbs with a white membrane.
In the City of Camas, Lacamas Regional Park is the best place to see the lilies. The 312-acre park with 12 miles of trails also attract hikers, picnickers, fishers, wildlife watchers, and waterfall lovers. A pond from an old mill remains, and there’s a working dam on Round Lake. The main trail into the park crosses the dam.
Enjoy today’s tour!
The Main Trail
The Dam on the Main Trail
The Mill Pond
The Lily Field