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Toxicoscordion venenosum facts for kids

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For other plants named deathcamas, see deathcamas.
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Toxicoscordion venenosum
Zigadenus venenosus 0116.JPG
In Kingston Prairie Preserve, near Stayton, Oregon
Scientific classification
  • Zigadenus venenosus S.Watson
  • Toxicoscordion arenicola A.Heller
  • Zigadenus venenosus var. ambiguus M.E.Jones
  • Zigadenus salinus A.Nelson
  • Toxicoscordion salinum (A.Nelson) R.R.Gates
  • Zigadenus diegoensis Davidson
  • Toxicoscordion gramineum (Rydb.) Rydb., syn of var. gramineum
  • Zigadenus venenosus var. gramineus (Rydb.) O.S.Walsh ex M.Peck, syn of var. gramineum
  • Zygadenus venenosus S.Watson, alternate spelling
  • Zygadenus salinus A.Nelson, alternate spelling
  • Zygadenus diegoensis Davidson, alternate spelling
  • Zygadenus gramineus Rydb., alternate spelling, syn of var. gramineum

Toxicoscordion venenosum, with the common names death camas and meadow death camas, is a species of flowering plants in the genus Toxicoscordion, of the Melanthiaceae family. It is native to western North America.

The plant is called alapíšaš in Sahaptin, and nupqasaquⱡ ("nup-ka-sa-qush") in Ktunaxa.


Toxicoscordion venenosum grows up to 70 cm tall with long, basal, grass-like leaves. The bulbs are oval and look like onions but do not smell like edible onions of the genus Allium.

The flowers are cream coloured or white and grow in pointed clusters, flowering between April and July.


Varieties include:

  • Toxicoscordion venenosum var. gramineum (Rydb.) Brasher
  • Toxicoscordion venenosum var. venenosum — a variety or the solo current species classification


The plant is widespread across much of Western Canada, the Western United States, and northern Baja California (México). They tend to grow in dry meadows and on dry hillsides as well as sagebrush slopes and montane forests.


All parts of the plant are poisonous. It is dangerous for humans as well as livestock. Consumption of 2% to 6% of the body weight of the animal is likely to be fatal. Along with other alkaloids, zygacine and other toxic esters of zygadenine are the primary neurotoxic alkaloids contributing to the plant's toxicity.

The plant is visited by a specialist mining bee, Andrena astragali, which is possibly the only bee that can tolerate its toxins.

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