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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Journals Lewis and Clark as Naturalists

groundplum milkvetch

This entry describes one of 30 specimens that were sent to President Jefferson from Fort Mandan and then logged into the Museum in Philadelphia on November 16, 1805, but subsequently lost.  We include this species as an example of the breadth of discovery and the explorers’ scholarship; attribution to this species is based upon Lewis’ description, early botanical work on the specimens, current botanical literature, and knowledge of the regional flora.

Capt. Lewis, June 3, 1804 - No. 11.  Was taken the 3rd of June above the mouth of the Osage river;   it is the groath of high dry open praries;   rises to the hight of 18 inches or two feet puts forth many stems from the same root; the radix is fiborous ; the Indians frequently use the fruit of this plant to alay their thirst as they pass through these extensive dry praries common to many parts of the country bordering on the Missouri; it resembles much the Indigo in the appearance of it's growth.  it bears it's fruit much like the indigo, a stem projects about three inches from the main stem at an angle of about 20 degrees, and bears from [two] to four podds, which in their succulent and unripe state as at this season of the year are about the size of a pullet's egg, somewhat flattened on two sides; the matrix is formed in two lobes and the seed are like pees and attatched to the matrix in the same manner, single and adhering to the center   the pulp is crisp & clear and tasts very much like the hull of a gardin pee.  when ripe the fruit is of a fine red coulour and sweet flavor.  it dose not ripen untill the middle of June.

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