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Published In: Flora Boreali-Americana (Michaux) 1: 213–214, pl. 22. 1803. (Fl. Bor.-Amer.) Name publication detailView in BotanicusView in Biodiversity Heritage Library

Project Name Data (Last Modified On 7/9/2009)
Acceptance : Accepted
Project Data     (Last Modified On 7/22/2009)


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26. Zigadenus Michx. (death camas)

Plants perennial, with bulbs, lacking the odor of onion or garlic. Aerial stems 10–60 cm long, unbranched below the inflorescence, erect or arching, glabrous. Leaves numerous, glabrous, mostly basal, those on the aerial stems greatly reduced and mostly bractlike, the basal leaves 10–50 cm long, linear, flat or more often folded longitudinally in the lower half. Inflorescences at the tips of the aerial stems, racemes or panicles of perfect and/or functionally unisexual flowers. Flowers with stalks 5–30 mm long, subtended by small bracts, none of them replaced by bulblets. Perianth spreading, the sepals and petals with a large, yellow or green gland in the lower half. Stamens 6, usually fused to the base of the perianth. Styles 3, each with a small stigma. Ovary superior, with 3 locules, each with 4–10 ovules. Fruits 10–18 mm long, ovoid, deeply 3-lobed capsules, the lobes beaked with the persistent styles. About 15 species, North America, Asia.

The generic name has been spelled Zygadenus in some of the older botanical literature. Plants of Zigadenus contain a variety of alkaloids, and most species are highly poisonous. The name “death camas” purportedly originated because the bulbs of some of the western species were confused by collectors with the edible bulbs of Camassia species, which are known as “camas” in that region.


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1 Perianth glands 2-lobed, the sepals and petals not narrowed to short, stalklike bases 1 Zigadenus elegans
+ Perianth glands not lobed, the sepals and petals narrowed to short, stalklike bases 2 Zigadenus nuttallii
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