Description & Overview

Wild Hyacinth is one of Wisconsin’s native spring ephemerals, with beautiful small white flowers arranged on a conspicuous raceme-a welcome sight for sore eyes after a long winter, bringing the promise that the growing season has begun. True to an ephemeral’s nature they go to seed by June. By midsummer, the grass-like leaves have melted away, transferring their energy to the bulb underground which lies in wait until the next spring.

You may also know this plant as Atlantic Camas or Beargrass.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 4

Mature Height: 12-24 inches

Mature Spread: 12-24 inches

Growth Rate: Slow

Growth Form: Upright perennial

Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade

Site Requirements: Moderate to wet soil

Flower: 1" white to light blue flowers with 6 tepals, star-shaped, raceme, sweet-scented, 7" raceme

Bloom Period: Mid-late spring, April – late May

Foliage: Grass-like, green basal leaves

Fall Color: N/A - Ephmeral

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Many tiny black seeds that set in June

Suggested Uses

Wild Hyacinth is a Wisconsin Endangered plant and sits at the northernmost part of its range.

It is rare throughout the south-central portion of the state and found in moist meadows, woodland edges, and prairies. Help restore Wild Hyacinth by planting more of it!

Plant along the border of ephemeral ponds and use it to restore wetlands and natural low-lying areas. It can be used as an accent plant on the edge of a water source or planted in mass amongst other vegetation. It also has potential in a residential rain garden/water garden setting. Use as a border plant is not recommended as the foliage starts to decline soon after blooming, leaving holes to fill in later.

Wild Hyacinth is one of Wisconsin's native spring ephemerals, with beautiful small white flowers arranged on a conspicuous raceme-a welcome sight for …

Wildlife Value

Wild Hyacinth attracts a variety of insects, mostly bees and flies, occasionally butterflies and wasps. Nectar is mostly what is sought after, but some short-tongued bees can collect pollen. Honeybees, bumblebees, cuckoo bees, sweat bees, syrphid flies, beetles, and others are frequent visitors.

Cobweb skippers (Hesperia metea), Dusted skippers (Atrytonopsis hianna), Silvery Checkerspots (Chlosyne nycteis), Clouded Sulphurs (Colias philodice), Red Admiral butterflies (Vanessa atalanta), American Lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis) often seek nectar in the spring.

Maintenance Tips

Wild Hyacinth is relatively low maintenance. That said, plants MUST have regular moisture levels during the spring growing season. Once blooming has occurred, the plant can tolerate drier site conditions.

They are slow to establish, so it’s best to leave them alone once planted. When grown from seed, Wild Hyacinth can take three to four years to grow.

As an ephemeral, plants will go dormant by summer and recede into the ground. Fear not-your plant isn’t dead; it’s just powering up for the next season.

Wild Hyacinth is one of Wisconsin's native spring ephemerals, with beautiful small white flowers arranged on a conspicuous raceme-a welcome sight for …

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: No
Rabbit Resistant: No

Deer occasionally browse the leaves. While there is little information on whether rabbits eat Wild Hyacinth, it’s quite possible if nothing more appealing is available.

Water Hyacinth is not tolerant of salt-be mindful when siting. Do not plant near walkways, driveways, or areas that receive direct or aerial salt in the winter months.

Leaf Lore

The genus name Camassia is derived from the Native American name “kamas” or “quamash” for the plant. The species name scilloides means “squill-like,” from the Greek name for this plant, Scilla.

Bulbs of a similar looking plant, Death Camas (Zygadenus nuttallii), are deadly poisonous if ingested. This plant is in found in the same region as Wild Hyacinth in Wisconsin. The bulbs of Death Camas and Wild Hyacinth look identical and should not be used for identification purposes.

Bulbs of the Wild Hyacinth were historically a main food source for indigenous people including the Nitinaht, Blackfoot, Hoh, Quileute, Tolowa, Karok, Klamath, and Okanagan-Colville tribes, amongst others, eaten raw, cooked, or dried.

The Blackfoot used an infusion of the leaves to help women with bleeding after birth and post-birth ailments.

Companion Plants

In similar growing conditions (moist) consider including Wild Hyacinth alongside Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana), Harlequin Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Meadow Anemone (Anemone canadensis), Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), Riddell’s Goldenrod (Solidago riddellii), Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), and Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Combine Wild Hyacinth with other uncommon plants native to Wisconsin including Hairy Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis), Chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii), Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), Glade Mallow (Napaea dioica), Hairy Penstemon (Penstemon hirsutus), Wild Senna (Cassia hebecarpa), Sullivant’s Milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii), Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica), Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium), and Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica).

Other early-bloomers that could be intermingled with Wild Hyacinth include Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba), Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), and Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum).

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Written by Beth DeLain