Meadow of Camas Lily In BloomMeadow of Camas Lily In Bloom
Photo Courtesy: Isabella Fleurand

The Fall Bulb That's Not Dutch

By Ray Allen

Of course, lots of the bulbs we consider Dutch Bulbs for fall planting aren't Dutch at all. Tulips are native to the middle east, and daffodils originally came from Spain and France. (Read our History of Tulips and Daffodils.) But did you know that one of the loveliest fall bulbs you can plant is a North American native? It's a bulb many gardeners have never heard of--the magnificent Camas Lily, or simply "Camassia."

It was "discovered" by Lewis and Clark on their expedition west in the early 1800's, and at that time was a major source of food and other uses by large numbers of native Americans. Lewis and Clark actually gathered camassia bulbs for a meal on the Weippe Prairie in Idaho in 1806, and described it all in their journals.

Camassia Lily blooming in the garden with the beeCamassia Lily blooming in the garden with the bee
Camassia Lily blooming in the gardenCamassia Lily blooming in the garden

As you can see by the magnificent photo above right, Camassia still blooms by the thousands in the wild today, but you'll have to travel to the upper Rocky Mountain west to see the spectacle in spring.

So along with your tulips and daffodils this fall, add a little American history to your garden. With the legendary western beauty, Camassia, one of the best-kept secrets in American gardening.

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