UMass Amherst
Frederick Pursh

Flora Americae Septentrionalis; or, A systematic arrangement and description of the plants of North America : Containing, besides what have been described by preceeding authors, many new and rare species, collected during twelve years travels and residence in that country
London : Printed for White, Cochrane, and Co., 1814.
2 v. : ill., 24 col. plates ; 22 102 cm.

Call no.: QK110.P9 1814

A bibulous gardener and artist from Saxony, Frederick Traugott Pursh (1744-1820) arrived in the United States in 1799 and worked in a succession of gardens in the mid-Atlantic states. By 1801, he had introduced himself to America's foremost botanist, Benjamin Smith Barton, and was working at the Woodlands, the estate of William Hamilton, both of whom were about to become connected as advisors to the Corps of Discovery, the transcontinental expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Departing the Woodlands in 1805, Pursh was hired by Barton (with the recommendation of the seedsman and gardener Bernard M'Mahon) to collect plant specimens in Virginia and New York state and, afterwards, to illustrate the western specimens collected by Lewis and Clark. In typical fashion, however, Barton was delinquent in paying Pursh his promised salary, and in equally typical fashion, Pursh stewed over the injustice until January 1809, at which time he took duplicate copies of his illustrations and left.

Meanwhile, a series of delays in publishing the botanical results of the Corps left a window of opportunity. After settling in London, Pursh worked industriously (when not inebriated) to produce a two volume Flora Americae Septentrionalis containing the first formal descriptions of the quintessentially America flora of Lewis and Clark. Among the western plants he described, one each was named after the leaders of the Corps of discovery, and two of the new western plants were later renamed in honor of M'Mahon (Mahonia) and Pursh himself (Purshia).

title page

Clarkia pulchella Clarkia pulchella, named in honor of William Clark. One of a number of species collected during the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Berberis nervosa Berberis nervosa, the "Oregon grape" collected by Lewis and Clark and reassigned to Mahonia by Thomas Nuttall in 1818, a new genus named in honor of the seedsman Bernard M'Mahon. Given responsibility for raising the seeds collected by Lewis and Clark, M'Mahon is author of the American Gardeners Calendar (Philadelphia, 1806), a comprehensive and early work that enjoyed eleven editions in less than fifty years. Mahonia, in turn, was later recognized as a junior synonym for Berberis.

Mimulus lewisii Mimulus lewisii, named in honor of Meriwether Lewis.