Lewis and Clark Expedition, Fritillaria affinis 1804-1806

Foundations | Lewis and Clark Expedition, Fritillaria affinis 1804-1806 Courtesy of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Ewall Sale Stewart Library Courtesy of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Ewall Sale Stewart Library In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson asked his private secretary, army Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a first-time expedition to the Pacific Coast. One goal: collect indigenous flora. Two centuries later, botanist Richard McCourt of the Academ

Feb 10, 2003
The Scientist Staff

Foundations | Lewis and Clark Expedition, Fritillaria affinis 1804-1806


Courtesy of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Ewall Sale Stewart Library


Courtesy of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Ewall Sale Stewart Library

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson asked his private secretary, army Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a first-time expedition to the Pacific Coast. One goal: collect indigenous flora. Two centuries later, botanist Richard McCourt of the Academy of Natural Science notes that at least 226 specimens remain. Lewis, who received a crash course on plants from Philadelphia botanist Benjamin Smith Barton, pressed the clippings between blotting paper to absorb water, thereby preserving the specimen. The team found 80 to 90 novel specimens--"a real good proportion," says McCourt. Easterners traded the plants with the English. "It was very cool to have a garden [cultivated] with North American plants."

Lewis found this glabrous perennial in Oregon; local Indians ate the roots. He wrote: "Specemin of a lilliacious plant obtained on Brant Island 10th of apl 1806. The root of this plant is a squawmus bulb.... The Clah-clel-lar opposite this Island call it tel-lak-thil-pah."