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André Michaux

(1746—1803)


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(1746–1803), French plant collector and explorer who was taught horticulture by his father at Versailles. In the 1770s Michaux explored western Asia and Persia (Iran) for two years, returning to France in 1785 with a collection of plants which he donated to the royal gardens. With his breadth of vision and erudition Michaux was ideally suited to be sent to the United States to forward French interests in their colony of Louisiana. Accompanied by his son François-André Michaux (1770–1855), he was instructed to make a horticultural collection, particularly of trees suitable for masts which would flourish in France. Within a month Michaux dispatched several boxes of seeds and trees, establishing holding gardens near New York and later at Charleston, South Carolina; and then for eleven years he traversed the continent from Florida to the Canadian tundra, frequently alone, meeting the Indians, and learning the Cherokee language. Probably knowing more about the geography and physical aspect of America than anyone else in 1793 Michaux planned, with the support of the Philadelphia Philosophical Society, to undertake a cross-continental journey to the Pacific; this did not materialize, and instead he explored in North Carolina. Although Michaux eventually shipped 60,000 plants to the government nursery at Rambouillet, near Paris, little material survived and funding for the American enterprise ceased with the French Revolution. With his son he wrote The History of North American Oaks (1801); a second book followed shortly before his death, Flora Boreali Americana, which described some 40 new genera and 1,700 plants, the most complete work of its time on American flora, both books being illustrated by Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759–1840). The genus Michauxia was named in his honour.

From The Oxford Companion to the Garden in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Lifestyle, Home, and Garden.


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