Journals of Lewis and Clark: Fruits and Berries

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The Journals of Lewis and Clark: The Fruits and Berries
The following excerpts are taken from entries of the Journals of Lewis and Clark - Fruits and Berries. A general description of the beasts, plants and Fruits and Berries, &c. found by the party in this expedition.

The native fruits and berries in use among the Indians, are what they call the shallun; the solme; the cranberry; a berry like the black haw; the scarlet berry, of the plant called sacacommis; a purple berry, like the huckleberry.

1. The shallun is an evergreen plant, abounding in this neighborhood, and its leaves are the favorite food of the elk. It is a thick growth, cylindrically rising to the height of three, and sometimes five feet, and varying from the size of a goose quill, to that of a man's thumb. The stem is simple, branching, reclining, and partially fluxuose, with a bark which, on the elder part, is of a reddish brown color, while the younger branches are red where exposed to the sun, and green elsewhere. The leaf is three fourths of an inch in length, and two and a half in breadth; of an oval form; the upper disk of a glossy deep green, the under of a pale green; the fruit is a deep purple berry, about the size of a common black cherry, oval, and rather bluntly pointed; the pericarp is divided into five acute angular points, and envelops a soft pulp, containing a great number of small brown seeds.

2. The solme is a small, pale, red berry, the production of a plant, resembling in size and shape that which produces the fruit, called in the United States, Solomon's sealberry. The berry is attached to the stem in the same manner. It is of a globular form; containing a soft pulp, which envelops four seeds about the size of the seed of the common small grape. It grows amongst the woodland moss, and is, to all appearance, an annual plant.

3. The cranberry is of the low and viny kind, and grows in the marshes or bogs of this neighborhood: it is precisely the same as the cranberry of the United States.

4. The fruit, which, though rather larger, resembles in shape the black haw, is a light brown berry, the fruit of a tree about the size, shape, and appearance in every respect, of that of the United States, called the wild crab-apple. The leaf is also precisely the same, as also the bark in texture and color. The berries grow in clumps at the end of the small branches; each berry supported by a separate stem, and as many as from three to eighteen or twenty in a clump: the berry is ovate, with one of its extremities attached to a peduncle, where it is to a small degree concave, the wood of which is excessively hard. The natives make their wedges of this wood, in splitting their boards, their firewood, and in hollowing out their canoes; the wedge when driven into solid dry pine, receives not the slightest injury: Our party made use of it likewise for wedges and axe-handles. The fruit is exceedingly acid, and resembles the flavor of the wild crab. The pericarp of the berry contains a soft pulpy substance, divided into four cells, each containing a single seed; the outer coat of the pericarp, is a thin smooth though firm and tough pellicle.The plant called sacacommis by the Canadian traders, derives its name from this circumstance: that the clerks of the trading companies are generally very fond of smoking its leaves, which they carry about with them in a small bag. It grows generally in an open piny woodland country, or on its borders. We found this berry in the prairies bordering on the Rocky mountains, or in the more open woodlands. It is indiscriminately the growth of a very rich or a very poor soil, and is found in the same abundance in both. The natives on the western side of the Rocky mountains are very fond of this berry, although to us it was a very tasteless and insipid fruit: the shrub is an evergreen, and retains its verdure in the same perfection the whole season round. However inclement the climate, the root puts forth a great number of stems which separate near the surface of the ground, each stem from the size of a small quill to that of a man's finger: these are much branched, the branches forming an acute angle with the stem, and all more properly procumbent than creeping: although it sometimes puts forth radicles from the stems and branches, which strike obliquely into the ground: these radicles are by no means general or equable in their distances from each other, nor do they appear calculated to furnish nutriment to the plant: the bark is formed of several layers of a smooth, thin, brittle and reddish substance easily separated from the stem: the leaves with respect to their position are scattered, yet closely arranged, and particularly near the extremities of the twigs: the leaf is about three fourths of an inch in length; oval, pointed and obtuse; of a deep green, slightly grooved; and the footstalk is of proportionable length: the berry is attached in an irregular manner to the small boughs among the leaves, and always supported by separate, small and short peduncles: the insertion produces a slight concavity in the berry, while its opposite side is slightly convex. The outer coat of the pericarp is a thin, firm, tough pellicle: the inner coat consists of a dry, mealy powder, of a yellowish white color, enveloping from four to six large, light, brown seeds: the color of the fruit is a fine scarlet: the natives eat these berries without any preparation: the fruit ripens in September, and remains on the bushes all winter unaffected by the frost: they are sometimes gathered and hung in the lodges in bags, where they are dried without further trouble.

6. The deep purple berry, like the huckleberry, terminates bluntly, and has a cap or cover at the end: the berries are attached separately to the sides of the boughs by a short stem, hanging underneath and they often grow very near each other, on the same bough: the berry separates very easily from the stem; the leaves adhere closely: the shrub rises to the height of six or eight feet, and sometimes grows on high lands, but more frequently on low marshy grounds: the shrub is an evergreen, and about ten inches in circumference, divides into many irregular branches, and seldom more than one stem springs from one root, although they associate very thickly: the bark is somewhat rough and of a reddish brown color: the wood is very hard: the leaves are alternate and attached by a short footstalk to the horizontal sides of the boughs: the form is a long oval, rather more acute towards the apex than at the point of insertion: its margin slightly serrate, its sides collapsing, thick, firm, smooth and glossy: the under surface is of a pale or whitish green, and the upper of a fine deep green. This beautiful shrub retains its verdure throughout the year, and is more peculiarly beautiful in winter. The natives sometimes eat the berries without preparation: sometimes they dry them in the sun, and at others in their sweating kilns: they very frequently pound them, and bake them in large loaves, weighing from ten to fifteen pounds: the bread keeps very well for one season, and retains its juices better by this mode of preparation than any other: this bread when broken is stirred in cold water, until it acquires the consistency of soup, and then eaten.

Accounts of the Plants

Accounts of the Trees

Accounts of the Shrubs and Undergrowth

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