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camass or camas (both: kămˈəs) [key], any species of the genus Camassia (or Quamasia ), hardy North American plants of the family Lilaceae (lily family), chiefly of moist places in the far West, where their abundance has given rise to various place names. The bulbs of the common camass ( C. quamash ) were a staple food of Northwestern Native Americans; it is now cultivated as an ornamental for its showy blue to white blossoms. Camass, or quamash, was the Native American name. An eastern camass is called wild hyacinth. The death camass ( Zygadenus venenosus ), with leaves poisonous to sheep, is similar in appearance but distinguishable by having three styles instead of six. Camass is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Liliopsida, order Liliales, family Liliaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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