Death camas produces grasslike leaves from a deeply buried bulb. The plant may be 4 to 18 inches tall. Yellowish-white flowers grow in clusters atop the stalk. It is a perennial in the lily family. Death camas grows in its natural habitat-a grassy meadow.
Death camas is the common name of several species of plants that are poisonous to livestock. The more toxic of these species are grassy death camas, meadow death camas, foothill death camas, and Nuttall's death camas.
They are found principally in the western range states. Death camas is one of the first plants to begin growth in the early spring. Unless there is sufficient other forage, the plant will be heavily grazed and will cause severe losses. Sheep are most likely to be affected by feeding on death camas. Occasionally cattle and horses are affected.
The plant contains toxic alkaloids, which occur throughout the plant. Animals are poisoned by leaves, stems, and flowers. Plants are dangerous at all times.
Bulbs cause severe illness in man. If bulbs are eaten, induce vomiting at once. Call a physician.
Where and When It Grows
Some species of death camas thrive on sandy plains; others grow on drier, rocky foothills.
The more toxic species are seldom found above elevations of 8,000 feet.
The leaves appear very early in the springs. In the foothills, death camas generally flowers in April and May. At higher elevations, the plant may flower in late June and July.
How It Affects Livestock
The plant affects the nervous system, causing marked disturbance in respiration and heart action. A 100-pound sheep may die if it eats 1/2 to 2 pounds of green foliage. The amount of foliage that will cause an animal's death depends on the species of plant eaten. Severely poisoned animals usually die; those less seriously affected may recover.
Signs of Poisoning
1. Rapid breathing
2. Excessive salivation
4. Weakness and staggering
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