Tcha-Mikiti: Camas-Ville 2015


Camas at Bush Park 2013
Camas at Bush Park 2013

Its now a tradition, part of my culture. Perhaps five years ago I began noticing and stopping at the camas fields in Salem. The best camas fields are those at Bush Park and at the State Fairgrounds south parking lots of Sunnyview Rd and 17th.

State Fairgrounds parking lot, 2012, off Sunnyview
State Fairgrounds parking lot, 2012, off Sunnyview

Little did I know but Salem, formerly called Chemeketa (tcha mikiti), was the main village of the Halpam Kalapuya tribe. The people (amim), harvested many camas (ti’p) in this area. This was well known camas place for many years, and tribes would travel from all around to dig camas, and rushes for basketry. The rushes probably came from the very large Lake Labish, by Chemawa Indian school, now drained.

Bush Park has numerous camas fields. First they begin in the parking lot, under the oak trees on the north side. The area is very shaded and full of amazingly rich growth of Camas. There are several white camas there. These are not Death camas but instead a white variety of true camas.

Rare "true" white camas, 2013
Rare “true” white camas, 2013

This camas is in the center isle, between the roadways and along the paths. The next field is near the baseball and tennis courts.

Camas going to seed, 2014
Camas going to seed, 2014

This is a very sunny area, very hot in the summer and the camas are smaller but still very many populate this large area. The last field is behind the track, up the hillside by where everyone has daily picnics.

Inatye camas digging 2014
Inatye camas digging 2014

The camas here are very big, having been helped by people working to remove all of the invasive plants. There are numerous true camas here in a white variant color.

Camas bulb from upper area of Bush Park, 2014
Camas bulb from upper area of Bush Park, 2014, held by Greg Archuleta

The Fairgrounds parking lots are full of camas. The south lot has the most, so many that it looks like a sea of camas. There are walking trails through this area and there is a rare varieties of blue camas with blue streaky petals.

Rare "Blue" camas, State Fairgrounds 2014
Rare “Blue” camas, State Fairgrounds 2014

I have not seen other large areas of camas around Salem. The next fields I notice are on the freeway within the grassy areas. One interesting fact about the flowers, is that they are not a perfect star shape, but one petal is faced in the general direction of the ground, while the other five are tipped upward. I have heard this is a trait to help bees orient themselves when they are visiting the flower for pollen collection.

Detail of the flower star with petal pointed downwards
Detail of the flower star with petal pointed downwards
Details of flower star, with one petal pointed at the ground
Details of flower star, with one petal pointed at the ground

The details of the Camas flower should be noted by artists, as the perfectly equilateral flowers seen in many images of the camas is not always accurate. That’s it for my camas obsession for this year. I leave you with some camas now going to seed at Bush Park. I also began collecting seed this year and have seeded my native garden at home.

2015-05-27 09.42.04

3 thoughts on “Tcha-Mikiti: Camas-Ville 2015

  1. from a watershed email:
    One population is in the public parking lot south of Sunnyview Road
    across from Gate J, on the SE corner of the junction of Sunnyview and
    17^th Street. The field has a large population of small camas (/Camassia
    quamash/). Watershed council members and some local citizens living in
    the area were surprised to see the camas still in bloom several years
    ago, especially because the parking lot is well used during the summer.
    However, in recent years these camas lilies appear to have been unable
    to set seed before the site is mowed, so the long-term survival of this
    population is becoming of concern. When these watershed council members
    consulted one of the scientists on our council, we found that this
    population is remarkable both for its purity of /C. quamash/ genetic
    makeup and its unusual flowering time relative to other /C. quamash /in
    the vicinity of Salem, OR. Dr. Susan Kephart (Willamette University)
    first learned of the population through Wilbur Bluhm, a Native Plant
    Society member and retired state extension agent who knows the flora
    well. She has documentation of its species status, genetic makeup, and
    flowering time if helpful. The unusual flowering time may reflect either
    the long-time compaction of soils there with trailer and fair parking,
    or might have been seed stock that reflects indigenous cultivation.
    A group has been working to allow seeding before mowing

  2. Hello there! This article couldn’t be written any better!
    Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept preaching about this. I will send this information to him.

    Fairly certain he’ll have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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