Purposes of Specimen Collection

Part 6

James Reveal, Professor Emeritus, Botany University of Maryland

Recorded at Packer Meadows in the Clearwater Forest near Lolo Pass
on the crest of the Bitterroot Range, July 3, 2003.


A specimen has three dimensions: odor, good color and a feel of surroundings, not seen on a flattened dried specimen. And yet, all the technical details necessary for identification, the number of petals, sepals, stamens, the condition of the ovary and fruit, the leaves, even the habitat of the plant can be nicely preserved in any specimen. Occasionally if you have a tree or a shrub it is necessary to make notes indicating the size of the tree or the shrub. This Lewis did on occasions, and we now have his original notes to go by.

This plant has bulbs. They are thick and fleshy. Drying one of those would be very difficult. Thus, Lewis rarely collected any succulent plant and certainly none of the bulbs that would require days, if not years, to dry. In fact, the reason Lewisia rediviva is called Lewisia rediviva is the genus name honors Lewis but the species name, or epithet, rediviva means revived. That's because the specimen that Lewis made at Travelers' Rest July 1, 1806, was still alive when it reached Philadelphia in September of that year. The specimen that Lewis returned to Philadelphia with, that would later be called Lewisia rediviva, was removed from his collection paper and grown in Philadelphia. It was observed for almost a full year before it suddenly died. Very likely, as everyone knows, over watering plants can be dangerous and deadly, and certainly that's the case with Lewisia.

Supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Governor's Lewis and Clark Trail Committee