Monday, October 12, 2009

The Bitterroot

The Bitterroot Mountains, Bitterroot River and Bitterroot Valley all derive their names from the bitterroot, a flowering plant with an edible, although bitter, root.

The bitterroot was an important food source for western Native Americans because it ripened in the Spring, when winter food supplies were running out and game was hard to find. The plant was especially important to the Salish (also known as the Flatheads), who lived in the Bitterroot Valley. According to Salish legend, the bitterroot formed when the bitter tears of a mother crying for her starving children went into the soil.

In 1806 Meriwether Lewis added a sample of the bitterroot to his collection of plants encountered by the Corps of Discovery. He is commemorated by the taxonomic name of the bitterroot, Lewisia rediviva

In 1895, the Montana legislature adopted the bitterroot as Montana’s state flower.

1 comment:

  1. Everything referencing either Lewis or Clark, the Lewisia rediviva, or Bitterroot is the state flower of Montana. I wonder how they derived the Lupinus, or Bluebonnet for Texas?