Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Crow-poison - Stenanthium densum   (Desrousseaux) Zomlefer & Judd
Members of Melanthiaceae:
Members of Stenanthium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Family Melanthiaceae
Author(Desrousseaux) Zomlefer & Judd
DistributionOccurs throughout the southern and central Coastal Plain (with a gap), and barely into the eastern edge of the Piedmont (where likely extirpated now). Ranges north to Martin and Nash counties in the Coastal Plain, but as it has been found in southeastern VA, it is to be looked for in the northern Coastal Plain.

This is a Coastal Plain species with a range similar to a large number of others: southeastern VA south to southern FL and west to eastern TX. There are hardly any disjunct occurrences well into the Piedmont.
AbundanceIn fire-managed savannas and pineland seepages, it can be fairly common to common, particularly in southern coastal and Sandhills counties. Over the range as a whole, it is generally uncommon and local, being one of many plants that favors prescribed burns or other management for survival. Extremely rare, if still present, in Piedmont counties such as Vance, Franklin, and Wake.
HabitatThis is a classic pine savanna species, but it also occurs in the wetter portions of pine flatwoods. It can occur in ditches and scrapes, at least close to savannas. In the Sandhills, it can be found in streamhead seepages and ecotones.
PhenologyThis is a spring-blooming species, unlike many of the savanna lilies, which mostly bloom in summer. It flowers from April into early June, and fruits from late May to July.
IdentificationThis species has a similar growth form to the primarily woodland-dwelling Fly-poison (Amianthium muscitoxicum), but normally is a bit more robust and has glaucescent leaves (vs. green). Crow-poison, even though in a different genus, has a cluster of long and slender basal leaves; the leaves grow to 1-1.5 feet long but only about 1/3-inch wide. Like the other species, this has a naked flowering scape that reaches a bit taller than Fly-poison, often to 2.5-3 feet high and occasionally nearly 4 feet tall. The inflorescence, generally about 3-5 inches tall, consists of a dense cone of small white flowers, each being about 1/3-inch across. This species differs from Fly-poison in that the flowers turn pinkish to purplish in late bloom, as opposed to greenish. Fly-poison is scarce in savannas and flatwoods, but can grow there; it normally is a shorter plant with slightly wider leaves. A visit to a well-managed savanna in the spring, such as in May, can at times yield dozens of these striking plants in bloom.
Taxonomic CommentsThe species has long been included in the genus Zigadenus, and named as Zigadenus densus. By being moved into Stenanthium, note that its specific epithet has been changed to densum (and not densus).

Other Common Name(s)Savanna Camas, Black Death Camas, Osceola's-plume
State RankS4
Global RankG5
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B.A. SorrieSame data. ScotlandPhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieSandhills Game Land, May 2003. ScotlandPhoto_natural

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