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Great Camas (Camassia leichtlinii) blooms in a field. One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Great Camas

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Camassia leichtlinii

Great camas is one of Oregon’s icon blue-purple camas varieties. With blooms up to four feet tall, the great camas is larger and later blooming than the 1-2’ common camas. Sow this seed in a sunny meadow to showcase its striking tall blooms and to support a wide range of pollinators from butterflies to bees to hummingbirds.

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous, perennial, herbaceous plant
  • Size at maturity: 18”- 48” tall, 6” wide
  • Light requirements: full sun, part sun/part shade
  • Moisture requirements: moist to wet winters, dry summers
  • Growth rate/ease: medium growth rate, easy to grow
  • Bloom time: March - July (April - June in the Portland Metro area)
  • Wildlife support: flowers attract and provide nectar to hummingbirds, adult butterflies, bees and other insect pollinators; overall plant supports beneficial and pest eating insects
  • Native habitat/range: locally common in wet, soggy, deep soils at mid elevations of western North America in British Columbia, Canada and California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Portland Plant List – yes. 
  • Special features & uses: edible, supports hummingbirds

Gardening with Great Camas: Camas is the crown jewel of the sunny raingarden or meadowscape. It does great with winter flooding, and even some shade, provided it can dry out and bask in the summer sun. Leave the seed pods after blooms, simply letting them die back naturally, and they will self-sow in undisturbed soils. New seedlings will emerge like tender grass foliage around existing plants that will continue to grow into bulbs, flowering after 3-5 years. 

Seeding Instructions: Direct sow in fall. Seeds are dormant and need 60-90 days of cold moist chilling (40 degrees or less) before seeds will germinate. Seeds germinate in late winter/early spring. Each seed packet contains approximately 100 seeds. 

Growing Transplants: Seeds can be sown in containers in fall and left outside over winter. Bulbs grow slowly, putting on one or two leaves each year. Bulbs usually flower at 3-5 years old. 

Photo Credit: Steele Acres Native Seed