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This type of plant is no stranger to the warm, dry desert, though there is a change in the type of plant this flower is. Now, it is made up of little green flowers and a ruffled, fuzzy appearance, that is only found in one place. Ranging up to twelve inches in height, death camas is able to survive with very little water available.Hairless, perennials, with linear, grass-like, v-shaped, parallel-veined leaves arising basally from an onion-like bulb. The leaves are not hollow like those of onions, and do smell like onion. The infloresence is a terminal raceme with numerous 6 petalled, small, white, cream to green flowers. The fruit is a 3 lobed capsule. Common species of death camas include: Showy or mountain deathcamas- Z. elegans Meadow death camas - Z. venenosus.Death camas has several steroidal alkaloids similar to those found in Veratrum (false hellebore). The bulb and mature leaves are most toxic. The alkaloids have potent hypotensive activity. Sheep show signs of poisoning after eating as little as 1/2 lb of the green plants.
Similar signs and death losses have occurred in sheep after eating stagger grass (Amianthum muscaetoxicum) a plant similar in appearance to death camas, and found in the Eastern United States from New York to Florida, and west to Arkansas. 1) Welch KD, Panter KE, Gardner DR, Stegelmeier BL, Green BT, Pfister JA, Cook D. The acute toxicity of the death camas (Zigadenus species) alkaloid zygacine in mice, including the effect of methyllycaconitine coadministration on zygacine toxicity. J Anim Sci. 2011 May;89(5):1650-7. doi: 10.2527/jas.2010-3444. PMID: 21521823. Deathcamas or death camas refers to several species of flowering plant in the tribe Melanthieae. The name alludes to the great similarity of appearance between these toxic plants, which were formerly classified together in the genus Zigadenus, and the edible camases (Camassia), with which they also often share habitat. Other common names for these plants include deadly zigadene, hog potato and mystery-grass.
“Pretty wildflower? Yes! Deadly poisonous plant? Yes!” All fresh parts of deathcamas (leaves, bulbs, flowers) are poisonous. Dried parts (especially seeds and capsules) are even more potent. Ingestion by humans can cause severe illness and occasionally death, even for adults. Livestock poisoning from deathcamas is a serious problem in some western rangelands.Death camas has several steroidal alkaloids similar to those found in Veratrum (false hellebore). The bulb and mature leaves are most toxic. The alkaloids have potent hypotensive activity. All parts of the Mountain Death Camas plant are poisonous from alkaloids more toxic than strychnine and can sicken livestock. Plants over-winter as a bulb that is very similar to the wild onion.Death camas contains several complex poisonous alkaloids and Native Americans called it the “poison onion”. The entire plant is potentially lethal if eaten. Even honeybees can be fatally poisoned from feeding on the nectar. The symptoms of poisoning include dizziness, nausea, and profuse vomiting. The Native American antidote was ingesting large quantities of fish oil. (Source: www.cdlandtrust.org)