Little camas

Little camas

A single camas flower, huddled against a rock

These are the camas that grew on Vancouver Island and the nearby gulf islands — as you see, from looking at the flowers on my header, they are a little different from the camas that fur trade descendants watch for every year. They are smaller and more delicate. But look where they grow — on the rocks next to the open wind-exposed waters of Juan de Fuca Strait. They may look delicate; they are not.

Little Camas, at Saxe Point Park in Esquimalt

The little camas grows in thick clusters all over the rock faces at Saxe Point Park, Esquimalt.

“These camas bulbs were a staple article of diet for many indigenous people,” Botanist Nancy J. Turner wrote. “They were especially important to the Coast Salish of southern Vancouver Island…”

Little Camas bloom earlier than their larger cousins

These little camas bloom earlier than their larger relatives. These were in bloom in the third week of April.

“Methods of collection and preparation of the bulbs vary according to tradition, but most groups dug up the bulbs during or after flowering, between May and August, and steamed them in pits….” Nancy Turner wrote. “Among the Vancouver Island Coast Salish, aboriginal harvesting and crop maintenance practices for camas can be termed semi-agricultural.”

These are delicate flowers in comparison to the larger camas

These flowers are shorter and lighter in stock, and have a smaller flower than the larger camas found in the interior of BC and WA

I have never seen these little camas before — I was familiar with the larger, later-blooming camas that appear on the header of my website. But I knew these existed, and found them (by accident) at Saxe Point Park in Esquimalt — only six or so blocks from my new home. Amazing!

Little camas grows on the rocks overlooking windy Juan de Fuca Strait

These tiny flowers are growing in an unfriendly environment, exposed to the fierce winds that whistle up the Straits of Juan de Fuca from the Pacific Ocean

As I do every year, I will be sharing these photographs with other descendants of the fur trade. We love these flowers with an almost religious fervour, and paste them up on our various Facebook pages every year! I already know that I am not the first, this year, to paste up a photo of the camas!

If anyone is interested in joining any of these fur trade descendants sites, I can tell you the names of the groups — but of course you have to be descended from someone who worked in the fur trade, at those particular posts, to join. But some of you may be, and for those of you whose ancestors worked in the fur trade, I will post the list of groups that I belong to:

Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees Association: find their website by googling “The Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees Association.” You can also join their Facebook page from this site.

The Children of Fort Langley site is at http://www.fortlangley.ca  While you can’t join their Facebook page from this site, you can search “Children of Fort Langley” in the Facebook search bar.

Fort Connah Restoration Society: Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/FortConnahRestorationSociety 

Spokane House does not have a Facebook page, but they have a website. Again, I can’t make their link work, but you will find them by googling “Friends of Spokane House.”

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is on Twitter and Facebook. Moreover, they have a spectacular website: http://www.nps.gov/fova/index.htm 

Back to the camas: here is one more photo — just to let you know how many flowers there are — these are the flowers in front of me, but I am surrounded by flowers. And you see the flowers butt onto the ocean. Well, its not quite an ocean — it is the Strait of Juan de Fuca and it is not a gentle, warm piece of water. The weather here is fierce! But of course the flowers are not blooming in wintertime.

Thousands of little camas bloom at Saxe Point Park in the last weeks of April and, perhaps, early May

There are thousands of blossoms on this small piece of land that overlooks the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean.

If by any chance you want to learn more about how these flowers are used by the First Nations and the fur traders, then please go to my first post on camas, found here: http://nancymargueriteanderson.com/the-camas/

Take your camera and photograph the flowers — do not pick. They do not last.

Copyright Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2014. All rights reserved. Enjoy!