Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, August 2018
   Zigadenus elegans - by Liam McCaughey
Quite a few years ago, on the AGS trip to the Colorado Rockies, we saw Zigadenus elegans - the picture here was at Mosquito Pass, in the Mosquito Range, at about 13,000 ft. 

A very attractive plant - but its common name is Mountain Death Camas. The indigenous peoples knew it, and had to make sure they didn't confuse it with very similar monocots whose roots and bulbs were eaten - such as alliums and camassia. All parts of the zigadenus are poisonous, able to cause an unpleasant death, due to the alkaloid zigadenine, and was used on poisoned arrows !

In 2008, I sowed some seed - and this year, for the first time, it has flowered - maybe the unusually hot summer helped.

Zigadenus elegans (synonym Anticlea elegans) is not included as a member of liliacea, but rather is related to trilliums. (Apparently molecular studies in recent years have severely disrupted the former morphological classifications - too complicated for here). It occurs widely through North America.