Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Death camas flowers and buds

with 22 comments

Death Camas Flowers and Buds 3803

Not for nothing is Zigadenus nuttallii called death camas: eat some of this pretty wildflower and you’re liable to die. Today’s deadly photograph comes from D-K Ranch Rd. in northwest Austin on March 6, 2012.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 2, 4 and 8 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

NZ – 3.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 7, 2015 at 5:27 AM

22 Responses

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  1. With the dark background and arched shape of the cluster, you’ve made it look like a pretty little headstone. (Now you can see how influenced I am by titles!)

    Marcia Levy

    March 7, 2015 at 8:36 AM

  2. Deadly flowers fascinate me. We have poison hemlock growing along a trail in a nearby bog. So pretty, so dangerous.


    March 7, 2015 at 8:50 AM

  3. So beautiful, yet so lethal.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 7, 2015 at 12:05 PM

    • Sounds like a description of someone from a novel, like Lady de Winter in The Three Musketeers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2015 at 2:11 PM

  4. Beautiful shot!


    March 7, 2015 at 1:50 PM

  5. I tend to not eat anything in the wild on personal ethics…but occasionally it is prudent for health as well.
    This is a lovely flower and your treatment really allows it to shine.

    Steve Gingold

    March 7, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    • Definitely prudent in this case. In contrast, I’ve been known to help myself to ripe dewberries when I’ve come across them in the late spring. A couple of times we’ve also feasted on morel mushrooms (and would again if we could find enough).

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2015 at 3:47 PM

  6. This reminds me of something that has always puzzled me; how did people originally find out which plants etc were safe to eat? By trial and error?


    March 7, 2015 at 9:48 PM

    • I used to wonder the same thing, and I came to the same conclusion you tentatively did. If it were the case that animals reacted to plants the same way we do, then people could feed a plant to an animal and see if there were any bad consequences, but there are animals that can eat with immunity things that poison us, and vice versa. For each type of plant that we know is poisonous, I’m afraid someone (or even many someones) had to find out the hard way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2015 at 10:53 PM

  7. A reminder that beautiful appearances may hide hidden dangers. Other quite ugly looking plants are very nutritious and tasty. The proverbial “don’t judge a book by its cover” applies here. It’s certainly an attractive shot though, Steve. It reminds me of a constructed bouquet for a bride even though it can bring death.


    March 8, 2015 at 12:17 AM

  8. I just made the mistake of reading about death camas poisoning in range animals, particularly cattle and sheep. My, what a list of terrible symptoms. I did learn that the degree of toxicity varies among species, and that the plants are most poisonous when they first emerge. I say: avoid them all!


    March 9, 2015 at 8:59 AM

  9. Love Marcia’s thought of its looking like a headstone. I agree that the black background you’ve chosen is most appropriate. What a conundrum it presents to contemplate the dichotomy that such lovely flowers can be so deadly.


    March 10, 2015 at 7:11 PM

    • I’d never thought of this flower cluster resembling a headstone, but there’s certainly appropriate symbolism in that. I wonder whether anyone will ever follow through with that idea for an actual tombstone.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 9:05 PM

  10. […] wildflower. And speaking of the genus Zigadenus, a few of you may remember that I belatedly showed an Austin species back in […]

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