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

reed canarygrass

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 16?, 1804 - N°. 19. Taken at the old village of the little Osages; the seed were now ripe; it grew in great abundance in the prarie from five to six feet high; it gave the plain much the appearance of an extensive timothy meadow ready for the sythe, the small birds feed on the seed which are very abundant resembling in size shape and colour those of the flax; when ripe they fall very easily from the stem. the leaf of this grass dose not decline or wither as many others do at the time the seed ripens but still continues succulent and green. it continues throughout the summer to put up a succession of young succors which in turn bear a large quantity of seed: this succession of crops continues throughout the season without the declining or withering of the stalk or leaves of the mother plant. the horses were very fond of this grass and I am disposed to believe that it would make a valuable grass for culture. this grass is common in the praries or bottom lands as high as the river Platte and perhaps further it is a fine sweet grass and I am confident would make good hay.

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