Scientific Importance

Although Lewis and Clark were to discover 17 plants and 144 animals that were new to Western science on their expedition, they did not name them. Naming and classifying was left to specialists. The total number of plants collected by Lewis is thought to be between 232 and 238.

In Lewis’s journals he carefully described the physical characteristics in great detail and drew detailed illustrations. He also collected seeds and roots and preserved pressed specimens, many of which eventually arrived in Philadelphia. An example of one such specimen is Linum lewisii.

"New and useful" were the criteria that guided Lewis’s collecting. Although he was not a trained botanist, Meriwether Lewis deserves a place in the pantheon of American botany.

Coyotes were new to Lewis and Clark; sometimes they referred to them as wolves and sometimes as foxes.

"I killed a Prairie Wollf," Clark wrote on September 18, 1804, "about the Size of a gray fox bushey tail head & ear like a wolf, Some fur." Later during the expedition they realized this animal was a distinct and separate species.

Below are a few examples:

Flax painting: Copyright ©2001 Charlotte Staub Thomas
Calliopsis painting: Copyright ©2002 Charlotte Staub Thomas