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Anticlea elegans
Anticlea elegans.  Synonym:  Zigadenus elegans.   (Death Camas)
Melanthiaceae (False Hellebore Family)
formerly Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Subalpine. Meadows, openings. Spring.
Sharkstooth Trail, July 14, 2006.

This lovely plant is abundant in the Four Corners area, primarily at higher elevations.  Both Anticlea elegans and its very similar looking foothills cousin, Toxicoscordion venenosum, have beautifully airy and symmetrically arching leaves and a long stalk with abundant star-like flowers.  Both are very noticeable and very attractive plants.  Both are quite poisonous.

"Anticlea" was the mother of Ulysses and "elegans" is Latin for "elegant".

Meriwether Lewis collected the first specimen of this plant in July of 1806 near Lewis and Clark Pass, Montana.  The plant was named Zigadenus elegans and described by Frederick Pursh in his Flora Americana, 1814.  It was renamed Anticlea elegans by Per Rydberg in 1903.

Weber places the two species shown on this page in Melanthiaceae, not Liliaceae.

Anticlea elegans

Anticlea elegans

Anticlea elegans. Synonym:  Zigadenus elegans. (Death Camas)
Melanthiaceae (False Hellebore Family)
formerly Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Subalpine. Meadows, openings. Spring.
Winter Trail, July 10, 2009 and Colorado Trail above Rico, July 31, 2007.

Heavy buds and supple stems bend and then strengthen and straighten holding flowers horizontally. 

In both species shown on this page there is no separation of petals and sepals; they are combined into what is termed, "tepals".  The notched projections at the tip of the tepals are a distinguishing characteristic of Anticlea elegans.  

Toxicoscordion venenosum
Toxicoscordion venenosum variety gramineum.   Synonym: Zigadenus venenosus.  (Death Camas)
Melanthiaceae (False Hellebore Family)
formerly Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Foothills, montane. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Can Do Trail, McPhee Reservoir, May 10, 2008.

Toxicoscordion venenosum and Anticlea elegans are distinguished primarily by the size, shape, and color of their floral parts, the size of the plant, and by their habitat.  Toxicoscordion venenosum grows at lower elevations, is a less robust plant, and its flowers are tighter clusters of smaller flowers.  Careful examination with a hand lens also shows differences in the structure of both male and female parts of the plants. 

T. venenosum has a very close cousin, T. paniculatum, but the description of the two in various expert botanical texts contains so many conflicting details that I am unable to separate these species. Botanical texts indicate that each plant may have an inflorescence that is a raceme or a panicle, the petals may be clawed (narrowed at their base) or not, flowers may be all perfect or may have some imperfect, etc.  Other characteristics of the two species are so similar that I wonder if there really is only one species.

Sereno Watson named this species Zigadenus venenosus in 1879 from specimens noted throughout the West and collected by him in Utah in 1869.  Per Axel Rydberg renamed the plant Toxicoscordion venenosum in 1903.

The Toxicoscordion genus name translates as "toxic garlic".  "Venenosum" is Latin for "venom" or "poison".

Toxicoscordion venenosum variety gramineum.   Synonym: Zigadenus venenosus.  (Death Camas)
Melanthiaceae (False Hellebore Family)
formerly Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Foothills, montane. Woodlands, openings. Spring.
Can Do Trail, McPhee Reservoir, May 10, 2008.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Anticlea elegans  

Range map for Toxicoscordion venenosum