That double "white" camas

Rodger Whitlock
Thu, 27 Oct 2011 19:02:18 PDT
The double "white" camas is actually a pale, slightly dirty yellow. 
Botanically, it's Camassia leichtlinii leichtlinii, and (I read) the single 
form is common around Roseburg, Oregon.…

This may be one of the best examples of a species where the type is atypical. 
AFAIK, most C. leichtlinii are ssp suksdorfii, the deep blue-purple form. The 
double yellow (which, oddly enough, seems not to have a cultivar name) is a 
pretty good garden plant, and multiplies well, but I find the flower buds at 
the top of the inflorescence are blind. Maybe because it's under the wall of 
the house where the eaves keep it somewhat too dry.

True white-flowered forms of C. leichtlinii suksdorfii can be found if you 
search through enough of them when in flower, but lordy, lordy, they do like to 
drag their bulbs down deep! Occasionally I've run across a patch where the 
color varies from a blue-tinged white through sky-blue to deeper shades. A 
double that is truly white would be something special.

And while I'm on a roll re camas, does anyone remember the proper cultivar name 
 of a very deep blue-purple form, something like "Princess Astrid"?

Those of you in dry summer climates are warned that camas is a prolific self-
seeder. It seems like every seed germinates, with the result that the plant can 
become fairly weedy unless you deadhead faithfully.

The mention of variation in camas at Middleton House is interesting. One of the 
plant groups that Luther Burbank was looking into at one time was camas. If you 
run across the mendacious "Harvest of the Years", a multi-volume summary of his 
breeding efforts, there's a color plate of his camas patch, but the colors are 
clearly added by hand and far too bright to be believable. The text says (iirc -
 I discarded the books years ago) that Burbank thought it might be possible to 
develop very large-bulbed culinary forms of camas, but this suggests that 
Burbank had never tried eating camas. I have, and when steamed it has all the 
appearance, flavor, and attractiveness of library paste. You can live on it, 
but who'd want to?

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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