The First Botanist of Michigan

OTD, On April 12, 1810, Thomas Nuttal, just 24 years old, left Philadelphia by coach.

He had recently immigrated from England, and Professor Benjamin Smith Barton of the University of Philadelphia wanted him to spend the next two years studying the flora of the Northwest.

Given a salary of $8 per month plus expenses, Nuttal set about collecting and writing detailed accounts of the flora he discovered. By July 29, he jumped in a birch bark canoe with Aaron Greely, the deputy surveyor of the territory of Michigan, and they paddled to Mackinac Island arriving two weeks later on August 12.

Nuttal spent several days on Mackinac. He was the first true botanist to explore at the flora of Michigan, and certainly of Mackinac Island. He documented about sixty species - about twenty were previously unknown. One the new Mackinac discoveries was the dwarf lake iris (Iris lucustris), which became the state wildflower of Michigan.


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Thomas Nuttall
Thomas Nuttall
Nuttall's woodpecker
Nuttall's woodpecker