Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database

Fritillaria camaschatcensis (Kamchatka Fritillary, Kamchatka Lily, Black Lily, Rice Lily, Northern Rice-Root, Indian Rice, Wild Rice, Skunk Lily, Dirty Diaper, Outhouse Lily, Chocolate Lily)



Plantae Plants

Subkingdom :

Tracheobionta Vascular plants

Superdivision :

Spermatophyta Seed plants

Division :

Magnoliophyta Flowering plants

Class :

Liliopsida Monocotyledons

Subclass :


Order :


Family :

Liliaceae Lily family

Genus :

Fritillaria L. fritillary

Species :

Fritillaria camschatcensis (L.) Ker Gawl. Kamchatka fritillary


Photo credit: Donna Dewhurst, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This species of fritillary is native to western North America from Alaska to Oregon, also northeastern Asia. It's tuberous roots are starchy, somewhat like a potato. Grizzly bears find them tasty and will dig them where possible. They have been used similarly to Wapato by Native Peoples for centuries. In fact, this year the nations in the western coast of British Columbia have begun to use this plant for food value, bringing back the food of the ancestors.

General Description: A perennial that herb lives in a bulbuous cluster of several larger scales much like garlic but with many small bulblets around them reminiscent of rice grains.

The strong stems appear first about 8 to 24 inches long with leaves in a circular pattern about the stems, usually 1 to 3 circlets, each group has 5 to 11 leaves and then a few leaves seemingly randomly placed above the top leaf coil.

The leaves are lanceolate, from 1 2/3 to 4 inches across.

Flowering from May to July, there may be 1 to 8 dark brown/purple to greenish brown flowers at the top of the stems, often with yellowish streaks or spots and bear a very nasty scent.

Photo credit: Alpsdake, photo taken in Mount Haku

This plant may be differentiated from other Fritillarys by bloom detail. Coloration of the bloom is quite similar to F. atropurpurea and F. lanceolata.

Range: Find this native perennial in Alaska's Kodiak Island down through Vancouver Island to British Columbia and southern coastal Washington where they have been seen in Snohomish, King, and Whatcom counties and rarely on Camano Island in Island County. In years past they are reportedly seen in San Juan County.

Habitat: This plant likes to be close to bodies of water from lakes and streams to damp meadows, different types of marshes, and bogs, either in shady evergreen wetlands to deciduous areas as long as there is plentiful moisture from near tide flats to mountain meadows. This assortment of suitable environs gives this lily a better chance of survival than do other, more picky natives.

Classed as "sensitive" in Washington, current threats include timber harvest, trampling, hydrologic changes, and collecting.

Photo credit: Σ64

For a short comparison of northwest native lilies, click here.

The USDA PLANTS database under Wetland Indicator Status has this announcement:

NOTE: On June 1, 2012, the 2012 National Wetland Plant List superseded the information below (see Federal Register, May 9, 2012, 77(90): 27210-27214[https://federalregister.gov/a/2012-11176]). For updated wetland information about this species, see the latest wetland list.

Thanks to the following resources:

Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritillaria_camschatcensis

Reference Desk of the Washington Natural Heritage Program, part of a cooperative project between the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Washington, Natural Heritage Program and the U.S.D.I. Bureau of Land Management, http://www1.dnr.wa.gov/nhp/refdesk/fguide/pdf/fricam.pdf

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, www.biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection.php?Genus=Fritillaria&Species=camschatcensis. See the exquisite photograph by Jim Riley on this page from Burke.

Illustration credit: Transactions_of_the_Linnean_Society_of_London,_Volume_10_-_tab__11-renewed

Contact:  star@chillirose.com ~ Copyright 2012 Wallace W. Hansen ~ All rights reserved