White Camas (Common name)

General poisoning notes:

White camas (Zigadenus elegans) is a native perennial herb that grows from a bulb. The plant can be found across most of Canada from British Columbia to New Brunswick and in parts of northwestern Canada. The plant contains several steroidal alkaloids, including zygacine, which can poison livestock and humans. White camas has caused poisoning in sheep and may have been involved in poisoning cattle. Ingesting the bulbs can also cause poisoning. This plant is considered to be about seven times less toxic that death camas (Zigadenus venenosus). Poisoning is most common in early spring because this plant often is available before other forage is plentiful (Kingsbury 1964, Panter and James 1989).

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Fuller, T. C., McClintock, E. 1986. Poisonous plants of California. Univ. California Press, Berkeley, Calif., USA. 432 pp.
  • Kingsbury, J. M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., USA. 626 pp.
  • Panter, K. E., James, L. F. 1989. Death camas-early grazing can be hazardous. Rangelands, 11: 147-149.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name:
Zigadenus elegans Pursh
Vernacular name(s):
white camas
Scientific family name:
Liliaceae
Vernacular family name:
lily

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Zigadenus elegans

References:

  • Agriculture Quebec. 1975. Noms des maladies des plantes du Canada/ Names of plant diseases in Canada. Quebec City, Que., Canada. 288 pp.
  • Alex, J. F., Cayouette, R., Mulligan, G. A. 1980. Common and botanical names of weeds in Canada/Noms populaire et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Revised. Agric. Can. Publ., Ottawa, Ont., Canada. 132 pp.
  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.
  • Scoggan, H. J. 1978, 1979. The flora of Canada. Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa) Publ. Bot. 7(1)-7(4). 1711 pp.
  • Van Wijk, H. L. 1911. A dictionary of plant names. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands. 1444 pp.
  • Victorin, M. 1964. Flore Laurentienne. 2nd ed. Univ. Montreal, Montreal, Que., Canada. 952 pp.

Geographic Information

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Northwest Territories
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan

References:

  • Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.
  • Boivin, B. 1966, 1967. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provencheria 6. Nat. Can. (Que.) 93: 253-274; 371-437; 583-646; 989-1063. 94: 131-157; 471-528; 625-655.

Image or illustration

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Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

All parts of the plant are toxic. The early leaves are the most common cause of poisoning because the plants grow early, before other forage is plentiful. The bulbs may be pulled up and ingested if the ground is wet (Cheeke and Schull 1985, Panter and James 1989).

Toxic parts:

  • all parts
  • bulbs
  • flowers
  • leaves

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Panter, K. E., James, L. F. 1989. Death camas-early grazing can be hazardous. Rangelands, 11: 147-149.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

A steroidal alkaloid, zygacine, is one of several alkaloids contained in death camas. The lethal dose is estimated at between 2.0-6.0% of animal body weight. This plant is considered to be less toxic than death camas, Zigadenus venenosus (Kingsbury 1964).

Toxic plant chemicals:

  • zygacine

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Kingsbury, J. M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., USA. 626 pp.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.

Cattle

No details about poisoning symptoms available.

Horses

No details about poisoning symptoms available.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Ingesting the bulbs, mistaken for onions, can cause poisoning in humans, even though this species is considered less toxic than death camas (Zigadenus venenosus).

References:

  • Fuller, T. C., McClintock, E. 1986. Poisonous plants of California. Univ. California Press, Berkeley, Calif., USA. 432 pp.

Sheep

General symptoms of poisoning:

Notes on poisoning:

Symptoms of poisoning are similar for all species of animals. Symptoms in sheep include excessive salivation, froth around the nose and mouth, nausea, vomiting, muscular weakness, ataxia, possible coma, and death. The heart fails before respiration. Postmortem findings reveal the heart in complete diastole. Lesions include severe pulmonary congestion, hemorrhage, and edema. One-time loss of sheep has been reported as 500 head in some species of Zigadenus (Cheeke and Schull 1985, Panter and James 1989).

References:

  • Cheeke, P. R., Shull, L. R. 1985. Natural toxicants in feeds and poisonous plants. AVI Publishing Company, Inc., Westport, Conn., USA. 492 pp.
  • Panter, K. E., James, L. F. 1989. Death camas-early grazing can be hazardous. Rangelands, 11: 147-149.

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