104. U.S. Exploring Expedition

From 1838 to 1842, the U.S. Congress funded an unprecedented voyage of scientific discovery, the U.S. Exploring Expedition.


Commanded by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, six American ships traveled more than 87,000 miles exploring oceans, continents, and islands. During the voyage, expedition scientists and naturalists collected living plants, natural history specimens, and cultural artifacts.


Thousands of plants and seeds were collected on the expedition and returned to Washington, D.C. These were among the founding collections of the first U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory that opened in 1850.


Some plants from that expedition still grow in the garden today! In the Conservatory, look for the queen sago cycad in the Garden Court, the vessel fern in Garden Primeval, and the ferocious blue cycad in World Deserts. In Bartholdi Park, find the jujube tree.

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