Camas Foliage

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interactive image describing the camas plant leaves

© 2004 VIAs Inc./Bob Gilman

Captain Lewis:

the foliage consists of from one to four seldom five linear, sessile, and revolute, pointed leaves; they are from 12 to 18 inches in length, and from 1 to 3/4 of an inch in the widest part which is near the middle; the uper disk is somewhat gro[o]ved of a pale green and marked it's whole length with a number of small longitudinal channels; the under disk is a deep glossy green and smooth. the leaves sheath the peduncle and each other as high as the surface of the earth or about 2 inches; they are more succulent than the grasses and less so than most of the lillies, hyesinths, &c.—1

Professor Reveal:

When Lewis says "the leaves sheath the peduncle and each other as high as the surface of the earth or about 2 inches," he is referring to the fact that in plants with several leaves arising from the bulb (in some species of Camassia there can be numerous leaves, and even in C. quamash there can be more than the maximum of five leaves as suggested by Lewis) the basal leaf sheaths surround the base of the peduncle for a few inches between the bulb itself and the ground surface where the leaves can diverge from the peduncle.

When he refers to "the upper disk" what he means is the upper (or inner) surface of the leaf-blade. Likewise, the "under disk" refers to the lower (or outer) surface.


linear—"Line-shaped; very long and narrow, with essentially parallel sides."
sessile—"Attached directly by the base, without a stalk, as a leaf without a petiole or a flower without a pedicel."
revolute—"Rolled outward or backward, so that the upper side of an organ is exposed and the lower concealed."
disk—The face of any flat body.
peduncle—"The stalk of an inflorescence or of a solitary flower." The word comes from pedunculus, a diminutive of the Latin pes, ped-, meaning foot.

1. Lewis's comparisons are appropriate. Given what was known until recently, Camassia quamash was considered to be a member of the lily family (Liliaceae). Using modern biochemical and DNA techniques, we now realize that the genus Camassia is a member of the agave or century-plant family (Agavaceae).

Supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Governor's Lewis and Clark Trail Committee