Camassia scilloides (Raf.) Cory

Wild Hyacinth

Camassia scilloides plant

Family - Liliaceae

Habit - Perennial forb, from a bulb, lacking odor of onion.

Stems - Erect, to 75 cm, single and unbranched, glabrous, scapose.

Leaves - Basal leaves 20-45 cm long, linear, straplike, flat with a raised midrib underneath, sometimes folded longitudinally in the lower half, glabrous, entire, dull green above, shiny deep green below. Stem leaves 0-2, much reduced, bractlike.

Camassia scilloides basalsBasal leaves.

Camassia scilloides leavesStem leaves.

Inflorescence - Terminal raceme, indeterminate, with 7-50 flowers. Flower pedicels subtended by small, linear bracts to 1 cm long.

Camassia scilloides inflorescence2Inflorescence.

Camassia scilloides inflorescence3Detail.

Camassia scilloides bractsBracts.

Flowers - Perianth to 2 cm broad, nectariferous. Tepals free, white, nearly always with some degree of lilac or pale blue shading, with 3-7 nerves, glabrous. Pedicels to 1cm long, elongating in fruit, glabrous. Stamens 6, free, borne at base of tepals. Filaments 6 mm long, glabrous. Anthers yellow, 3 mm long, 1.2 mm broad. Ovary superior, glabrous, 3 mm long, ovoid, with 3 locules, each with 2-5 ovules, placentation axile. Style 1, 3 mm long, glabrous, white. Stigma 3-lobed.

Camassia scilloides flowersFlowers.

Camassia scilloides flower2Flower.

Camassia scilloides perianthPerianth.

Fruits - Capsules 6-10 mm long, ovoid to obovoid, three-lobed.

Camassia scilloides fruitsFruits.

Flowering - April - May.

Habitat - Open woods, stream banks, glades, bluff ledges, prairies, fields, roadsides.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Lookalikes - Camassia angusta.

Other info. - This delicately beautiful species is found across most of Missouri, except for the far northwestern and southeastern corners of the state. Its U.S. distribution is restricted to the eastern half of the country. It is probably more abundant in Missouri than any other state. Its showy inflorescences are easily recognized, although can be easily confused with those of Missouri's other member of the genus, C. angusta. The latter species is far less common, and is distinguished by having more flowers on the inflorescence and up to 24 stem leaves.

The flowers of this species are variable in color, ranging from pale blue to white. The bulbs are edible and those of western species have been used as a food source by Native Americans. Bulbs of eastern species are normally cooked before being consumed. Great care must be taken in tasting the bulbs, since there are many highly poisonous plants which look similar. Camassia scilloides is popular among insects, and seems to be a favorite of beeflies.

Camassia scilloides beeflyNectaring beefly.

Photographs taken off Highway 70, Callaway County, MO., 5-3-04 (DETenaglia); also at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 4-29-2007 and 4-27-2010, Greensfelder County Park, St. Louis County, MO, 4-20-2010, Washington State Park, Washington County, MO, 4-14-2011 and 5-3-2014, and Young Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 5-2-2013 (SRTurner).