Blue Camas

Some of my favorite things to plant in my garden that are not fruits or vegetables are native wildflowers.

Though they may not be edible themselves, many flowers have the benefit of attracting pollinators, which will help to get those fruit and vegetable blossoms pollinated, too.

I like to grow native flowers, specifically, for a few reasons: they are adapted to the environment, so they should not really need any care beyond planting; I want to help preserve our native species as much as possible; and they may be used in traditional ways and keep cultural knowledge alive.

Here in Oregon, we have a beautiful and useful flower called Camas (Camassia quamash.) It belongs to the lily family, and has blossoms that are usually the color of bluebells. In addition to its beautiful flowers, its bulbs are also edible, and have been a staple food in traditional indigenous diets for over ten thousand years.

Camas grows in the wild in meadows that become marshy in the rainy season. That’s why it makes for a great plant for a rain garden at home. In Portland, the city encourages people to disconnect their downspouts from the sewers to reduce strain on the system and pollution in our rivers. All of the downspouts of our house are disconnected. One of them, on the east side of the house, carries a lot of water off of the roof, which also has to be carried six feet away from the foundation, because it comes down beside our basement cellar, rather than one of the crawlspaces. So, to accommodate both the volume of water and to make an attractive feature in the garden, we have dug a hole and will be planting it with various natives that like seasonally wet conditions, to create a rain garden.

I sowed some Blue Camas seeds today from Native Ideals Seed Farm, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the spring!



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