Understanding Camas through Citizen Science

The Kootenay Camas Project seeks to engage the public in making observations and collecting and recording data about camas populations in the Kootenays. We hope to understand the health and status of camas meadows, to identify opportunities for stewardship, and to promote awareness of this important natural and heritage resource.

2012 Kootenay Camas Inventory

With the help of local residents, the Kootenay Camas Project (KCP) has found the largest Canadian populations of common camas (Camassia quamash) east of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers is the area with the highest population density as well as the area with the most individual finds. Millennium Park in Castlegar is a camas “hot spot”.

With the help of local residents we have found camas in places we were hoping to see it and totally unexpected places. People have reported camas in suburban gardens, along trails and rivers and in back woods areas. Citizen scientists have been able to cover a large area and help us with valuable information.”

says project coordinator Eva Johansson.

Students from Stanley Humphries Secondary School and Selkirk College, West Kootenay Naturalists and Castlegar Garden Club members and the public have all contributed to this project. People have used email, a smart phone app (INaturalist.org) and mailed report cards to report their finds.

Common camas is a native lily with beautiful blue flowers and edible bulbs. It was an important food for First Nations throughout the Columbia Basin and in the Pacific Northwest, where it has been called a cultural keystone species. Camas meadows were described by early explorers as “blue lakes,” and David Thompson records being given “Root” on his journeys on the Columbia River. Now, however, camas is an increasingly rare find in the West Kootenay.

“We are hoping to raise awareness of this unique and beautiful flower. Public response has been great so far. Hopefully, we will expand this project in the future to include restoration and stewardship of camas habitat.”

says Valerie Huff of the KCP.

 

Get involved! We need your help to find out where camas grows in the West Kootenay.