National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future



Camassia quamash, family Hyacinthaceae/Liliaceae

This ornamental bulb originally from North America was used by Native Americans in the preparation of medicines associated with childbirth. The bulbs were also an important part of the staple diet for many tribes.

The famous Scottish plant collector and explorer David Douglas (1799-1834) was the first European to discover it and write about its beauty and use. We know from his journal that he ate it himself during his exploration of the Columbia River in 1825 and again during his search for the Sugar Pine, (Pinus lambertiana), in 1826.

Douglas who was born near Scone in Perthshire is better known for the significant range of forest trees he introduced, one of which included the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). It is named after another famous Scottish plant collector, Archibald Menzies (1754-1842) who first discovered it in British Columbia around 1792 prior to its introduction by Douglas in 1826.

Today this tree plays a significant role in the nation's modern forestry industry and it is fair to say that no other plant collector has had a greater impact on the appearance of Scotland's landscape than Douglas.

Quamash. Image credit: Tom Benson, Flicker. CC license
Quamash. Image credit: Matt Lavin, Flicker. CC license