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Zigadenus venenosus


  Photo courtesy of Ben Legler
Hauser, A. Scott. 2006. Zigadenus venenosus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].



meadow deathcamas
grassy deathcamas
death camas
hog potatoes

The currently accepted scientific name of meadow deathcamas is Zigadenus venenosus S. Wats. (Liliaceae) [22,29,30,35,40,42,50,51,52,58,59,114]. There are 2 accepted varieties:

Z. v. var. gramineus Rybd. [13,22,51,58,66,114], grassy meadow deathcamas
Z. v. var. venenosus S. Wats. [22,51,58], meadow deathcamas

In this review, "meadow deathcamas" refers to the species as a whole. Zigadenus venenosus var. venenosus is referred to as the "typical variety," and " grassy deathcamas" refers to Z. v. var. gramineus.

Zygadenus venenosus S. Wats. [14,74,92,117]
  = Zigadenus venenosus S. Wats.
Zigadenus gramineus Rybd. [51]
  = Z. v. var. gramineus (Rydb.) Walsh ex M.E. Peck
Zygadenus gramineus Rybd. [46]
  = Z. v. var. gramineus Rybd.


No special status

Information on state-level protected status of plants in the United States is available at Plants Database.


SPECIES: Zigadenus venenosus
Meadow deathcamas is a native species. It is patchily distributed from British Columbia east to Saskatchewan and south to New Mexico and Baja California [22,29,30,40,42,50,51,52,58,59,114]. The typical variety occurs from British Columbia east to Alberta and south to Utah and California [22,51,58]. Grassy meadow deathcamas occurs from British Columbia east to Saskatchewan and south to Colorado [13,22,51,58,66,114]. Plants Database provides a distributional map of meadow deathcamas and its infrataxa.

FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir-spruce
FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce
FRES25 Larch
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES27 Redwood
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands

STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)



1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

K001 Spruce-cedar-hemlock forest
K002 Cedar-hemlock-Douglas-fir forest
K003 Silver fir-Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir-hemlock forest
K005 Mixed conifer forest
K006 Redwood forest
K007 Red fir forest
K008 Lodgepole pine-subalpine forest
K010 Ponderosa shrub forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K013 Cedar-hemlock-pine forest
K014 Grand fir-Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K025 Alder-ash forest
K026 Oregon oakwoods
K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026
K029 California mixed evergreen forest
K030 California oakwoods
K033 Chaparral
K034 Montane chaparral
K035 Coastal sagebrush
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K047 Fescue-oatgrass
K048 California steppe
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass
K053 Grama-galleta steppe
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K057 Galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie

205 Mountain hemlock
206 Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir
207 Red fir
209 Bristlecone pine
210 Interior Douglas-fir
211 White fir
212 Western larch
213 Grand fir
215 Western white pine
216 Blue spruce
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
221 Red alder
222 Black cottonwood-willow
223 Sitka spruce
224 Western hemlock
225 Western hemlock-Sitka spruce
226 Coastal true fir-hemlock
227 Western redcedar-western hemlock
228 Western redcedar
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
230 Douglas-fir-western hemlock
231 Port-Orford-cedar
232 Redwood
233 Oregon white oak
234 Douglas-fir-tanoak-Pacific madrone
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper
242 Mesquite
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
244 Pacific ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir
245 Pacific ponderosa pine
246 California black oak
247 Jeffrey pine
248 Knobcone pine
249 Canyon live oak
250 Blue oak-foothills pine
255 California coast live oak
256 California mixed subalpine

101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
106 Bluegrass scabland
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
109 Ponderosa pine shrubland
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
201 Blue oak woodland
202 Coast live oak woodland
203 Riparian woodland
204 North coastal shrub
205 Coastal sage shrub
206 Chamise chaparral
210 Bitterbrush
214 Coastal prairie
215 Valley grassland
216 Montane meadows
217 Wetlands
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
306 Idaho fescue-slender wheatgrass
307 Idaho fescue-threadleaf sedge
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
318 Bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
319 Bitterbrush-rough fescue
323 Shrubby cinquefoil-rough fescue
324 Threetip sagebrush-Idaho fescue
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
404 Threetip sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
409 Tall forb
411 Aspen woodland
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
413 Gambel oak
419 Bittercherry
420 Snowbrush
421 Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose
422 Riparian
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
601 Bluestem prairie
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
604 Bluestem-grama prairie
605 Sandsage prairie
607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass
609 Wheatgrass-grama
610 Wheatgrass
612 Sagebrush-grass
613 Fescue grassland
704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass

Meadow deathcamas is not listed as a dominant or codominant species in published classifications. Common associates of meadow deathcamas that are not found in the lists above include the grass species Parry oatgrass (Danthonia parryi), timber oatgrass (D. intermedia), sedge (Carex spp.), and timothy (Phleum pratense); the forb species cinquefoil (Potentilla spp.), glacier lily (Erythronium grandiflorum), western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), pussytoes (Antennaria spp.), smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laevis), milk vetch (Astragalus spp.), arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), sticky purple geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), oneleaf foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata var. unifoliata), Wallace's spikemoss (Selaginella wallacei), alpine sweetvetch (Hedysarum alpinum), and lupine (Lupinus spp.); the shrub species rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata), kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis), willow (Salix spp.), and fringed sagebrush (Artemisia frigida); and the tree species balsam popular (P. balsamifera)[1,10,21,54,67,82,108,118].


SPECIES: Zigadenus venenosus
This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available (e.g. [14,22,29,50,51,59,74,83,84,92,114,117]).

Meadow deathcamas is a perennial [18,22,71,72], cool-season forb [56,61,71,88,109,110]. It grows from 6 to 28 inches (15-70 cm) in height [22,51,59,74,83,84,114]. Individual plants produce a single, erect, unbranched, sparingly leafed stem [88,92,104]. Meadow deathcamas leaves are grass-like, mostly basal, 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) long, and 2-10 mm wide [18,22,51,74,83,84,92,104,114]. The typical variety and grassy meadow deathcamas are primarily differentiated by a raceme or panicle inflorescence. The typical variety commonly bears several to many flowers on a 2 to 8 inch (5-20 cm) long terminal raceme [22,29,46,50,51,59,84,104,105]. Grassy meadow deathcamas usually has a terminal panicle [29,114]. Meadow deathcamas seeds are small, developing in a 3-cavitied capsule [22,29,74,88,104,105,114]. The bulbs are 0.5 to 1.5 inches (1-4 cm) in diameter [42,71,74,74,92] and occur 2 to 8 inches (5-20 cm) underground [87]. Roots are short and sparse, generally penetrating less than 6 inches (15 cm) into the soil from bulb depth [72].

Toxicity: Both varieties of meadow deathcamas are extremely toxic [20,61,65,72,73,100,105]. This is due to the presence of zygacine, a neurotoxic steroidal alkaloid [61,72,73,100]. Dried meadow deathcamas remains toxic for at least 20 years [100]. Research shows that meadow deathcamas does not exhibit diurnal fluctuations in zygacine [72,73]. (For information on seasonal fluctuations, see Seasonal Development.)


Meadow deathcamas reproduces by seeds [87,88,104] and bulb offsets [63,79].

Breeding system: Meadow deathcamas has perfect flowers [30].

Vegetative regeneration: Meadow deathcamas reproduces vegetatively via sprouting from mature bulbs [35,58] and bulb offsets [63,79].

Currently (2006), there is no information available on meadow deathcamas pollination, seed production, seed dispersal, seed banking, germination, and seedling establishment or growth. Research is sorely needed on these plant attributes.

Meadow deathcamas occurs on coastal prairies [50,51], wet and drying meadows, along creeks [14,59,114], in open forests and forest edges [92], and on rocky bluffs, grassy hillsides, and sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) slopes [18,33,51,92]. Preferential site characteristics include rich, moist bottomlands and lower foothills [25].

Grassy meadow deathcamas commonly occurs on hills and in meadows, and to a lesser extent in open park areas and high bench lands [25].

Climate: Meadow deathcamas occurs in several climatic zones. In the Pawnee National Grasslands, Colorado, the climate is continental, with approximately 70% of annual precipitation falling between April and August [47]. Meadow deathcamas occurs in the hottest, driest zone found in British Columbia. The zone, a rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass (Festuca altaica-Pseudoroegneria spicata) community, encompasses the valley bottoms of the Thompson, Nicola, and Fraser river systems [70].

Extensive climatology data for Fort Lewis, Washington, where meadow deathcamas is common, are presented by Papanikolas [89].

Elevation: The overall elevational range of meadow deathcamas is 1,400 to 8,000 feet (420-2,400 m) [22,25,46,56,83,84,109,110]. The elevational range of grassy meadow deathcamas is 4,000 to 7,000 feet (1,200-2,100 m) [25].

Soil: Meadow deathcamas thrives on sandy and rocky soil [48,56,109].

A detailed analysis of soil in Fremont County, Wyoming, where grassy meadow deathcamas occurs, is presented in a review by Bayer [11].

Along the coast of British Columbia, meadow deathcamas occurs in kinnikinnick communities that indicate moderately to very dry soils, oneleaf foamflower communities that indicate nitrogen-medium soils, and Wallace's spikemoss communities that indicate very shallow soils [62].

Soil moisture: Soil moisture affects zygacine levels in deathcamas. Near Kamloops, British Columbia, soil moisture at 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) and 5.5 inches (14 cm) was significantly correlated with zygacine levels (r = -0.54 and r = -0.52, p<0.05). At 2 of 5 sites, a 45% average decrease in water was associated with a 40% increase in meadow deathcamas zygacine levels [72].

Meadow deathcamas is adapted to disturbed sites [19,25,85,87], is shade intolerant [62], and occurs across the successional gradient [45]. It occurs in early, mid-, and late seral stages in the Craig Mountain Wildlife Area, Idaho. The area has a long history of disturbances including fire, fire exclusion, road building, agriculture, and domestic livestock grazing [45] (see Discussion and Qualification of Plant Response to Fire). On lands disturbed by off-road vehicles near Fort Lewis, Washington, meadow deathcamas occurs in secondary succession [19].

Meadow deathcamas is 1 of the 1st plants to begin growth in the spring. It reaches maturity and enters dormancy during early summer as soil moisture declines [56,61,88,110]. Seed dissemination is largely in July and August [25].

In the foothills meadow deathcamas generally flowers in April and May. At higher elevations meadow deathcamas flowers in late June and July [56,109,110]. The flowering periods of meadow deathcamas at several locations are presented below.

State/Region Flowering period
California May to July [84]
  southern California May to June [83]
Nebraska May to July [105]
Nevada April to July [59]
Great Plains May to July [42,104]
Pacific Northwest May to July [51]
Uintah Mountains, Utah June to July [40]

The seasonal development of meadow deathcamas in a western Montana mountain grassland ecosystem at 7,100 feet (2,160 m) was as follows [82]:

Growth stage Time period
Growth starts April-May
Flowering begins June
Flowering ends June-July
Plants dried June-August
Seed dissemination August

Zygacine levels were evaluated during 4 stages of meadow deathcamas growth at grassland and subalpine sites near Kamloops, British Columbia. Zygacine concentrations were slightly higher in meadow deathcamas plants growing at subalpine elevations, which were 1,300 to 1,600 feet (400-800 m) higher than grassland elevations, compared to plants on grassland. At both sites, zygacine concentrations were highest during bud stage [73].

Site Stage of growth Zygacine level
(% ± SD)
Grassland Vegetative 0.43 ± 0.03
Bud 0.46 ± 0.25
Bloom 0.34 ± 0.08
Pod 0.39 ± 0.12
Subalpine Vegetative 0.51 ± 0.11
Bud 0.53 ± 0.17
Bloom 0.47 ± 0.15
Pod 0.32 ± 0.20

Majak and others [72] studied zygacine levels in meadow deathcamas at various stage of growth near Kamloops and found that zygacine levels were significantly (p<0.05) higher during the vegetative state (0.50%) than during bloom (0.32%) and pod (0.32%) stages.


SPECIES: Zigadenus venenosus
Fire adaptations: Meadow deathcamas regenerates rapidly after fire from deep, underground bulbs [113]. It also reproduces by seeds [87,88,104], though currently (2006) the literature does not document this as a postfire regeneration strategy.

Fire regimes: In the communities and ecosystems where meadow deathcamas is found, its occurrence is minor. In the literature, meadow deathcamas is most commonly associated with foothill rough fescue communities, where the historic fire return interval is 5 to 10 years [15,118].

The following table provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where meadow deathcamas is important. Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
silver fir-Douglas-fir Abies amabilis-Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii >200
California chaparral Adenostoma and/or Arctostaphylos spp. <35 to <100 [90]
grand fir Abies grandis 35-200 [3]
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium <10
silver sagebrush steppe Artemisia cana 5-45 [49,93,118]
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [90]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [98]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [5,80]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (x=40) [112,120]
coastal sagebrush Artemisia californica <35 to <100 [90]
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. <35
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii <35 [90,97,118]
blue grama-buffalo grass Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides <35 [90,118]
grama-galleta steppe Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii <35 to <100 [90]
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum <10 [91,115]
California montane chaparral Ceanothus and/or Arctostaphylos spp. 50-100
mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub Cercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii <35 to <100 [90]
California steppe Festuca-Danthonia spp. <35 [90,102]
western juniper Juniperus occidentalis 20-70
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum <35 [90]
western larch Larix occidentalis 25-350 [4,9,24]
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii <5-47+ [90,93,118]
Engelmann spruce-subalpine fir Picea engelmannii-Abies lasiocarpa 35 to >200 [3]
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. <35 [90]
Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine P. aristata 9-55 [27,28]
Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. latifolia 25-340 [8,9,106]
Sierra lodgepole pine* Pinus contorta var. murrayana 35-200
Colorado pinyon Pinus edulis 10-400+ [36,41,60,90]
Jeffrey pine Pinus jeffreyi 5-30
western white pine* Pinus monticola 50-200
Pacific ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47 [3]
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [3,7,68]
galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe Pleuraphis jamesii-Aristida purpurea <35 to <100 [90]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains) Populus tremuloides 7-120 [3,44,75]
mesquite Prosopis glandulosa <35 to <100 [34,90]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (x=10) [2,3]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 [3,5,6]
coastal Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii 40-240 [3,81,96]
California mixed evergreen Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii-Lithocarpus densiflorus-Arbutus menziesii <35
California oakwoods Quercus spp. <35 [3]
coast live oak Quercus agrifolia 2-75 [43]
canyon live oak Quercus chrysolepis <35 to 200
Oregon white oak Quercus garryana <35 [3]
California black oak Quercus kelloggii 5-30 [90]
interior live oak Quercus wislizenii <35 [3]
little bluestem-grama prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp. <35 [90]
redwood Sequoia sempervirens 5-200 [3,34,103]
western redcedar-western hemlock Thuja plicata-Tsuga heterophylla >200
western hemlock-Sitka spruce Tsuga heterophylla-Picea sitchensis >200
mountain hemlock* Tsuga mertensiana 35 to >200 [3]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review

Geophyte, growing points deep in soil


SPECIES: Zigadenus venenosus
Meadow deathcamas is top-killed by fire [54,113]. The bulbs survive fire [113].

No additional information is available on this topic.

Meadow deathcamas is described as a fire "endurer" [119]. It regenerates via seeds [87,88,104], sprouting from bulbs [35,58], and from bulb offsets [63,79]. Understanding of meadow deathcamas' response to fire is limited and inconsistent, so further research is sorely needed. In the fire research described below, meadow deathcamas cover has decreased [15,31], increased [15,45,76], and remained constant [76,77] after burning.

Lightning-caused fires at China Garden Creek (September 2000) and Lower Corral Creek (October 2001), Idaho, had little effect on meadow deathcamas cover 1 and 2 years following fire. Prior to the 2000 and 2001 fires, no large fires had occurred in the areas since 1976. Vegetation sampling took place in 2001 (15 June-22 July) and 2002 (15 June-22 June) on burned and unburned sites. On unburned sites, meadow deathcamas cover increased from <0.025% in 2001 to 0.28% in 2002. On burned sites, meadow deathcamas cover remained relatively constant in 2001 (<0.025%) and 2002 (0.03%) [76].

A December 1997 wildfire on foothill rough fescue grasslands in southwest Alberta increased meadow deathcamas cover at postfire month 6 on burn perimeters and at postfire month 18 on burn perimeter and interior sites. Meadow deathcamas cover on burn interiors at postfire month 6 was slightly less than on unburned sites. The fire was "extremely hot", with head fire intensity ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 kW/m². The average rate of fire spread (~6 miles/hr) was 1 of the greatest documented for a grassland fire in Canada. In total, the fire burned 53,370 acres (21,600 ha). Conditions were favorable in the first 2 growing seasons following the fire, with precipitation 46% above average in 1998 and average in 1999. In postfire month 6 (June 1998), meadow deathcamas cover was 0.2% on unburned sites, 0.1% on burn interior sites, and 0.9% on burn perimeter sites. In postfire month 18 (June 1999), meadow deathcamas cover was greater on both burn perimeter (1.3%) and interior (0.6%) sites compared to unburned (0.1%) sites [15].

In a qualitative study in southeastern Alberta, meadow deathcamas composition (% biomass relative to the community total vegetation) decreased following an August 1994 wildfire in a lowland western wheatgrass-thickspike wheatgrass-needle-and-thread grass-porcupine grass (Pascopyrum smithii-Elymus lanceolatus-Hesperostipa comata-H. spartea) community. Vegetation analysis was conducted from 1995 to 1997 during late July to early August, the period of peak standing phytomass. Pooling data from all years, meadow deathcamas composition on burned and unburned sites was 0.6% and 1.4%, respectively [31].

From 17 August to 24 August 1996, a lightning-initiated fire burned 4,781 acres (1,935 ha) in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. While no prefire data were available, percent occurrence of meadow deathcamas (relative to the total sample points) in 2 burned Utah serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis) communities in late August to September 1997 was 33% and 17%, respectively [37].

A 1973 wildfire that burned from 10 August to 23 September in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness of Idaho had no effect on meadow deathcamas. A "trace" cover of meadow deathcamas was measured on burned and unburned sites in June 1974 and 1976 [77].

Meadow deathcamas cover increased following an August 2000 fire in the Craig Mountain Wildlife Area, Idaho. The site is a bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda) habitat type occurring on the southern aspects of 2 watersheds, China Creek and Corral Creek. In total, the fire burned 74,510 acres (30,155 ha) over a 9-day period. The 45-day period prior to the fire had below-average precipitation, but precipitation was above average in September 2000. During the 1st postfire sampling year (2002), April and May precipitation was below average. The 2nd sampling season (2003) followed months of above-average precipitation. Research conducted prior to the fire found meadow deathcamas occurred on early, mid-, and late seral sites. Meadow deathcamas cover (%) on 7 burned plots from 1999 to 2003 is shown below [45]:

Plot Seral stage 1999 2000 2002 2003
16 Mid 0.12 0.01 0.25 2.52
18 Mid 0 0.60 0.18 0.24
19 Mid 0 0 0.06 0.84
20 Late 0.24 0.96 0.48 3.18
21 Mid 0.12 0.12 0.90 5.70
22 Early 0.26 0.67 1.14 4.38
23 Mid 0.07 0.06 0.43 2.52

On ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir communities in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, meadow deathcamas cover and frequency in postfire year 4 were higher on thinned-and-burned sites than on thinned, prescribed burned, or unburned control sites. Meadow deathcamas was determined to be an indicator species for thinned-and-burned sites (P0.05).  For further information on the effects of thinning and burning treatments on meadow deathcamas and 48 other species, see the Research Project Summary of Youngblood and others' [121] study.

Meadow deathcamas cover increased slightly during postfire year 2 on Lubrecht Experimental Forest, Montana. Prescription fires were conducted on thinned and unthinned sites in spring of 2002. Six units total were burned (3 thinned, 3 unthinned), each 22 acres (9 ha) in area. All fires were of low to moderate severity. For more information on this study, see Metlen's [78] Research Project Summary.

The Research Project Summary Changes in grassland vegetation following fire in northern Idaho provides further information on prescribed fire and postfire response of meadow deathcamas and other plant species.

Meadow deathcamas may be reduced or eliminated by repeated annual burning from mid-spring to mid-summer. In early spring, carbohydrates stored in the bulbs are metabolized, producing new leaves. Since yearly burning destroys the photosynthetic surface responsible for new carbohydrate production, the plant may have insufficient carbohydrate stores need for growth the following year. This can result in plant death or the inability to reproduce for more than 1 year [107]. Since meadow deathcamas reaches maturity and enters dormancy during early summer, fire during other seasons likely has little effect [56,61,88,110].


SPECIES: Zigadenus venenosus
Meadow deathcamas is 1 of the most toxic western range plants [25]. Livestock and wildlife are poisoned by the bulbs, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds of meadow deathcamas [56,104,110]. Grassy meadow deathcamas is the more toxic of the 2 varieties [25]. Meadow deathcamas is particularly toxic to domestic sheep since they tend to select forbs, particularly in early spring before grasses have begun growing [25,56,61,71,72,73,87,88,104,109,110]. This is exacerbated by the fact that meadow deathcamas is 1 of the 1st grazing species to appear in the spring [61,71,104,109,110,116]. Fatal overdoses are most common in lambs [87]. A 100-pound (45 kg) domestic sheep may die if it eats 0.5 to 2 pounds (0.2-0.9 kg) of green meadow deathcamas foliage [56,87,110].

While meadow deathcamas is generally toxic to wildlife, descriptions of elk [94], small mammals [104], and mule deer [10] eating the forb are found in the literature.

Palatability/nutritional value: The palatability of meadow deathcamas for cattle, domestic sheep, and horses is "poor" [26,88]. Meadow deathcamas energy and protein value is rated as "poor" [26].

Cover value: The cover value of meadow deathcamas is generally poor for upland game birds, waterfowl, small nongame birds, and small mammals [26].

No information is available on this topic.

Meadow deathcamas is used as an ornamental [63]. The Blackfoot [71], Chehalis, Squaxin [92], and Native Americans of Mendocino County, California [18], used meadow deathcamas externally to cure boils and rheumatism and to alleviate pain caused by strains and bruises. The Chehalis and Squaxin used meadow deathcamas as a violent emetic [92].

Herbicides: Meadow deathcamas can be controlled if sprayed early in the growing season with 2,4-D. After the flowering stalk appears, 2,4-D is ineffective [56,87,110,116]. Detailed effects of 2,4-D on meadow deathcamas at varying rates at in Albany County, Wyoming, are presented in a review by Humberg and others [53]. Meadow deathcamas is resistant to picloram, clopyralid, picloram + clopyralid, and metsulfuron methyl [17].

Fertilization: Nitrogen fertilization increases meadow deathcamas biomass. In a rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass community near Missoula, Montana, nitrogen was added at rates of 0, 50, 100, 150, and 200 kg/ha. At the 5 rates, meadow deathcamas biomass (g/m²) was approximately 0.75, 3.25, 0.75, 1.75, and 2.25, respectively [55].

Grazing response: Meadow deathcamas increases with overgrazing [69].

Herbage production: In mountain grasslands of western Montana, meadow deathcamas herbage production (air-dry) was 1 to 5 lbs./acre on southwestern exposures and 1 to 10 lbs./acre on northeastern exposures [82].

Livestock poisoning: Poisoning generally occurs in spring when more palatable vegetation is not available or on overgrazed ranges [88,109]. To reduce losses due to meadow deathcamas, livestock should be kept off infested ranges until adequate forage is available [87]. Death from meadow deathcamas seen in cattle [61,100], fowl, horses, and domestic sheep. Domestic sheep losses from 500 to 2,000 animals have been reported [61].

Symptoms of meadow deathcamas poisoning begin with excessive salivation, soon followed by nausea and vomiting. This is followed by muscular weakness, trembling, and eventual prostration. Pulse becomes fast and weak and heart action is weakened. Heart weakening is accompanied by a struggle for breath and frequent convulsions. If animals are severely poisoned, a comatose state may precede eventual death. The comatose state varies from several hours to 2 or more days. The preceding symptoms generally apply to domestic sheep, cattle, and horses. When cattle are poisoned salivation is usually less and nausea greater [61,109,110].

In feeding experiments involving domestic sheep, the 1st symptoms of meadow deathcamas poisoning occur within 2.5 hours after ingestion, and the average duration of symptoms is 29.25 hours. The minimum toxic dose and minimum lethal dose, expressed as a percentage of the animal's weight of green plant material, is 0.4% and 2.0%, respectively [61].

Human effects: Meadow deathcamas bulbs can cause severe illness in humans. Symptoms include gastrointestinal irritation and vasomotor collapse [56,57,61,87,110].

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