Plant of the day: marsh zigadene (death camas)

Growing alongside a meadow stream are many spikes of pale flowers. This is marsh zigadene, or Toxicoscordion micranthus. A few long, linear leaves sit unobtrusively at the base of the plant, which is decked with several dozen creamy white blossoms. The six-petalled flowers have a small yellow spot at the base of each grooved petal, and a short tight cluster of stamens with oversized anthers.

Marsh zigadene is a native that is usually found growing in damp places, often near serpentine, according to the Flora of Marin. It’s common in this county but is rare elsewhere.

The common name for the several similar-looking species in the Toxicoscordion genus is “death camas.” These species are another example of highly toxic beauty. I have always known these plants as Zigadenus species, but they were recently moved to a different group (something that is always happening in the botany world – it can be hard to keep track!). They are still listed in most floras under the old name, but are in online databases under the new name.

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Filed under Native, Plant of the day, Poisonous, Rare

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