Meriwether Lewis

Shoshone to Snowberries

Today Meriwether Lewis discovered the Snowberry or Symphoricarpos albus.
I love the story of how Lewis came across the Snowberry.
Meriwether was really looking for the Shoshone Indians, but he found the Snowberry instead.
Meriwether wrote in his journal that he discovered something like a small honeysuckle, except that it was bearing a berry,

“... as large as a garden pea and as white as wax."

The plant was a truly new discovery to the scientific community.
And, Meriwether showed his botany chops when he said he thought it resembled the honeysuckle because it actually IS a member of the honeysuckle family. The Latin name for Snowberry is from the Greek meaning "fruits joined together," because the berries are clustered in pairs.
Sadly, Snowberries aren't good eating; they're pretty tasteless. But, the birds - especially grouse - love it.
As for Meriwether, botanists suspect that he probably took a specimen of the Snowberry in his pack because some of the seeds made their way to Philadelphia to Thomas Jefferson's favorite nurseryman: Bernard McMahon.
Once the Snowberry was in his hands, McMahon did what he always did; cultivate the plant and take cuttings. After McMahon grew the Snowberry, he sent cuttings to Thomas Jefferson. By October of 1812, Jefferson wrote back to report that the Snowberries were thriving in his garden. He gushed that they were some of the most beautiful berries he had ever seen - a hearty endorsement for the Snowberry.

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Meriwether Lewis
Meriwether Lewis

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