Lewis and Clark Plants for Floral Design

Lewis and Clark Plants for Floral Design
Celebrate the Lewis and Clark bicentennial in style. During their expedition, they discovered numerous plants that are just great for floral design.

The origins of the Lewis and Clark expedition date from a letter President Thomas Jefferson wrote on January 18, 1803. He asked Congress to authorize the expedition in the Northwest.

The U.S. will be celebrating the bicentennial of the expedition from 2004 to 2006. During the trip Lewis and Clark discovered many plants.

The most popular Lewis and Clark plants are the Mahonias or Oregon grape hollies. All parts of these plants can be used in floral designs, including the gorgeous foliage, unusual blooms, and berries. These evergreens are named for Bernard McMahon, a very prominent horticulturist at the time of the expedition.

The Osage orange was their first botanical sample. It is now the most popular tree in America. Fruits from this tree are often used in floral designs for the fall and winter months.

The wild mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) is named for Lewis. He collected samples near Missoula, Montana. It has delightful whitish-cream blooms. The stems are a wonderful addition to spring arrangements.

Lewis & Clark also brought back samples of the Red Osier dogwood. The colorful stems are often used in fall and winter floral designs.

During the expedition the two explorers discovered two different rose species. One was the prairie rose, which they called “the small rose of the prairies.” The other is the Woods rose. Both of these are ideal for summer arrangements, while the rose hips provide superb color to autumn designs.

The bearberry was another plant the men found during their travels in the winter of 1804-1805. The evergreen foliage is perfect for flower arrangements. It also has colorful fruits as well.

For more information on the Lewis and Clark plants, I refer you to “Plants of the Lewis and Clark Expedition” by H. Wayne Phillips, published by Mountain Press Publishing Co. This engrossing, beautifully illustrated guide features 315 color photos, maps, and sketches of Lewis and Clark’s specimens. The book is easy to read and thoroughly interesting. It carries the reader along so well that one can sense the excitement of the expedition. The author includes extensive quotes from the explorers’ journals.

Though Lewis and Clark naturally deserve credit for the expedition, Jefferson was very much involved, and wanted them to succeed. He waited eagerly to see what new plants they would discover.

No one doubts that Jefferson contributed greatly to American science during his lifetime, of which the Lewis and Clark expedition was only one part of that. This is a perfect time to recognize Jefferson’s scientific pursuits and his love of flowers and gardening.

The story is presented beautifully in a book published by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, available from the University of North Carolina Press. “Jefferson and Science” by Silvio A. Bedini looks at Jefferson’s role in various fields, such as agriculture, botany, health and medicine, astronomy, and much more.

Some considered him to be America’s first archaeologist. His study in Virginia was one of the first archaeological digs to take place here. Whatever he did he approached it with a passion, and that is obvious in his agricultural pursuits. He kept careful farm records, which were later published. In this thoroughly engrossing book, Bedini presents his accomplishments in each of these fields of endeavor.

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