Death camas, death lily

All of the Zigadenus species
Lily (Liliaceae) Family

Death Camas or Death Lily plant

Poisonous Death Camas have onion like bulbsDescription: The poisonous Death Camas (or Meadow Deathcamas) plant arises from a bulb and may be mistaken for an onion plant. Its leaves are long and grass-like. The bulbs look like onions but do not smell like onions.  Its small (quarter inch), cream or white colored flowers are six-parted and the petals have a green, heart-shaped structure on them. Numerous flowers grow on in pointy clusters on showy stalks above the leaves.

All parts of this plant are very poisonous. Death camas does not have the onion smell.  Young plants and seed parts are extremely poisonous.

Death Camas grass-like stems and flowerHabitat and Distribution: Death camas is found in wet, open, sunny habitats, and in dry meadows although some species favor dry, rocky slopes. They are common in parts of the western United States. Some species are found in the eastern United States and in parts of the North American western subarctic and eastern Siberia.

Poisoning can occur with consumption of just one or two bulbs.  Symptoms of poisoning include spasms and rapid breathing, low heart rate, diarrhea, deep tendon reflexes, coma, twitching, nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness, flushing, headache, and blood in vomit.

It has been said that eating rich fish or beef broth, grease, or butter may counteract the poison.  Activated charcoal may also help counter the poison.

Death Camas Flowers

Close-up of Death Camas flowers

Death Camas growing in the wild

Drawing of the Death Camas plant illustrating the plant's leaves, stems, and bulb