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

Geyer's onion

These passages were written in Broadwater County, Montana.

Capt. Lewis, July 22, 1805--on this Island I met with great quantities of a smal onion about the size of a musquit ball and some even larger; they were white crisp and well flavored   I geathered about half a bushel of them before the canoes arrived. I halted the party for breakfast and the men also geathered considerable quantities of those onions. it's seed had just arrived to maturity and I gathered a good quantity of it. This appears to be a valuable plant inasmuch as it produces a large quantity to the squar foot and bears with ease the rigor of this climate, and withall I think it as pleasantly flavored as any species of that root I ever tasted. I called this beatifull and fertile island after this plant Onion Island.

Capt. Lewis, July 23, 1805--saw a great abundance of the common thistles; also a number of the wild onions of which we collected a further supply. there is a species of garlic also which grows on the high lands with a flat leaf now green and in blos. but is strong tough and disagreeable.

These passages were written in Lewis County, Idaho.

Capt. Lewis, May 16, 1806--our sick men are much better today.   Sahcargarweah geathered a quantity of the roots of a speceis of fennel which we found very agreeable food,   the flavor of this root is not unlike annis seed, and they dispell the wind which the roots called Cows (cous) and quawmash (camas) are apt to create particularly the latter.   we also boil a small onion which we find in great abundance, with other roots and find them also an antidote to the effects of the others.   the mush of roots we find adds much to the comfort of our diet.

Capt. Clark, May 16, 1806--The men who were complaining of the head ake and cholick yesterday and last night are much better to day.   Shabonos Squar gathered a quantity of fenel roots which we find very paliatiable and nurushing food. the   onion we also find in abundance and boil it with our meat.

These passages were written at their camp near the Clearwater River

Capt. Lewis, May 30, 1806--one of the men brought me today some onions from the high plain of a different speceis from those near the borders of the river as they are also from the shive or small onion noticed below the falls of the Columbia.   these onions were as large as a nutmeg, they generally grow double or two bulbs connected by the same tissue of radicles; each bulb has two long liniar flat solid leaves.   the peduncle is solid celindric and crowned with an umbal of from 20 to 30 flowers.   this onion is exceedingly crisp and delicately flavoured indeed I think more sweet and less strong than any I ever taisted.   it is not yet perfectly in blow, the parts of the flower are not distinct.

Capt. Clark, May 30, 1806--one of the men brought me to day some onions from the high plains of a different species from those near the borders of the river as they are also from the shive or small onion noticed below the Falls of Columbia.   these onions were as large as an nutmeg, they generally grow double or two bulbs connected by the same tissue of radicles; each bulb has two long line[a]r flat solid leaves.   the pedencle is solid celindric and cround with an umble of from 20 to 30 flowers.   this onion is exceedingly crisp and delicately flavoured indeed.   I think more sweet and less strong than any I ever tasted, it is not yet perfectly in blume, the parts of the flower are not distinct.

 
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