Don’t eat these lilies!
When John Freemont and his band of explorers first came to California they had gotten used to living off the land. They had gotten used to consuming a wide variety of wild plants, including lily bulbs.
Well, it turns out some lily bulbs can be extremely poisonous. These plants are known as Star Lilies or Freemont’s Death Camas (Toxicoscordion fremontii). They made the mistake of eating them and several members of the team died. EVERY part of this plant is deadly and there is no antidote.
These photos are of Freemont’s Death Camas. They are an endangered species, so don’t dig them up to take home or destroy them in the wild. The flower is from California Native Plant Society – Yerba Buena Chapter The other two were taken at the Placerita Nature Center by Santa Clarita.
They have recently been removed from the “true” lily family and into the “False-hellebore” family, Melanthiaceae. There are several other plants that contain “lily” in their name that aren’t in the “true” lily family (Liliaceae) that are dangerous but nothing quite as deadly as Toxicoscordion fremontii.
Photos from AmericanMeadows.com
Just because you have a “true” lily on hand, don’t think you are safe. The Gloriosa Lily and the Lily of the Valley are also poisonous. Not quite as lethal as Freemont’s Death Camus but still able to kill or render seriously ill. Most lilies are capable of causing adverse reactions in people depending on how much skin contact occurs, what is eaten, how prepared and how much consumed. I think Freemont just got lucky he didn’t meet eat dangerous ones earlier in his trip.
Many common lilies are very bad news for pets, particularly cats. Asiatic, Easter, Japanese Show, Rubrum, Stargazer, Red, Tiger, Western, and Wood lilies (Lilium species) and Daylilies (Hemerocallis species) can kill a cat just from their water or close contact with their pollen.