Meadow deathcamas is native to western North America, with patchy distribution across much of western Canada, the United States and northern Baja California in Mexico. Due to its wide distribution meadow deathcamas inhabits a wide range of habitat types, including vernally moist meadows, upland prairies, dry slopes, rocky ridgelines and bluffs, woodlands, chaparral, forest openings and edges. Toxicoscordion is a bulbous genus once considered in the Liliaceae family that is now included in the Melanthiaceae family. Meadow death camas has cream colored flowers in a spike of ascending stalks that grow 6-20″ tall. It blooms late spring to early summer and goes summer-dormant after going to seed. Meadow deathcamas has mostly basal, grass-like leaves. The bulbs are 0.5 to 1.5 inches in diameter and occur 2 to 8 inches underground. The bulbs superficially look like onions. Meadow death camas prefers full sun and moist spring conditions that can dry out in late summer.
Although poisonous to humans and livestock if ingested, meadow deathcamas was historically used by some Native American tribes for various purposes, namely topically and for poison arrows, etc. According to Calscape, “Consumption of 2 to 6% of the body weight of the animal is likely to be fatal. Along with other alkaloids, zygacine and other toxic esters of zygadenine are the primary neurotoxic alkaloids contributing to the plant’s toxicity.”
Due to its toxicity, meadow deathcamas has a uniqe plant-pollinator relationship with a specialist mining bee, the death camas andrena (Andrena astragali), which might be the only bee that can tolerate its toxins. Although many plant-pollinator interactions involve specialists, most interactions include partners that are taxonomic generalists, and it is rare that both the floral host and its pollinators are mutually specialized, but such is the case with death camas plants and the death camas andrena bee.