When it comes to foraging for wild onions, there is a potential danger lurking in the form of death camas.
Many people don’t know the difference between these two plants, and as a result, they may end up eating something that could poison them or make them sick.
In this blog post, we will take a look at how to distinguish between death camas and wild onions so that you can avoid any dangerous surprises when out gathering your food.
What is special about death camas?
Death camas is a plant that is native to the Pacific Northwest.
It belongs to the genus Toxicoscordion, the Melanthiaceae family.
The plant has white flowers with a faint lavender edge and green leaves.
Therefore, it can be easily mistaken for other plants, such as wild onions or garlic.
If ingested, death camas cause severe heart problems and respiratory failure.
Although it is quite rare to see people eat death camas, accidentally or intentionally, there have been cases of death camas poisoning in the United States.
What is special about wild onions?
Wild onions are a type of onions that are typically found in the wild instead of being bought from a grocery store or supermarket.
Wild onions are low-maintenance, they improve soil health and attract beneficial insects.
You won’t even notice that wild onions have grown on themselves in your garden.
This plant also has a taste that resembles cultivated green onions, but maybe a bit more potent.
If you are on an adventure and want something to enhance the flavor or garnish your dish (soups or stir-fries), wild onions can be a great choice to replace spring onions.
So this is the part that most people care about, how to distinguish between death camas and wild onions?
Well, it is definitely essential to know how to differentiate these two plants to get rid of being poisoned due to your lack of knowledge about death camas and wild onions.
The table below points out three key differences between a death camas plant and wild onions:
|Death camas||Wild onions|
|Bulb||Larger Don’t have the brown mesh covering||Smaller|
|Smell||Not smell like an onion||Smell like cultivated onions|
|Safety||Poison Can make animals or people die if consumed too much||All parts of wild onions are edible They can be used in place of cultivated green onions|
In general, it is better to have an experienced partner to come with you on your adventure if you are a newbie.
He/She can help you identify death camas and wild onions because these two plants also share some similarities that can easily make you mistake one for the other:
The first feature that death camas and wild onions share with each other is that they can be found in the wild.
This means in your garden or in an adventure, chances are you can find wild onions and death camas all around on the ground, and they might even be close to each other.
This feature makes many people confused about what to pick to add to their recipes instead of poisoning themselves.
Another thing in common between death camas and wild onions is their appearances.
We have to recognize that at first glance, these two plants look very similar, no matter if you have dug them up or not.
They both look like grass with greenish to white flowers and green leaves.
The bulbs are pale white, while death camas’ bulbs are often larger in size compared to the wild onions’ counterparts.
Now you can understand why people can mistake death camas with wild onions due to the aforementioned similarities.
Hopefully, the differences between these two plants can help you avoid death camas and pick the right wild onions for your dishes when you eat out on a picnic or adventure.