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1927 Map of the Arboretum

1921: Expedition to Glacier National Park

A cones and foliage of whitebark pine Pinus albicaulis collected at Ptarmigan Lake near Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana. Photograph by Mr. Dall taken for Susan McKelvey, September 1921. Archives of the Arnold Arboretum.
A cones and foliage of Pinus albicaulis collected at Ptarmigan Lake near Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana. Photograph by M. Dall taken for Susan McKelvey, September 1921.

Plants collected on this Expedition

Plant ID Accession Date Recieved As Origin Source

Expedition Stats

Montana, Canada

Event Type
Expedition
Collection Type
Germplasm, Herbarium Specimens
Arnold Arboretum Participants
John George Jack and Susan Delano McKelvey

Years before (in the 1880s) Charles Sargent had recommended that the area and its “appallingly grand” scenery “be set aside as a forest preserve.”

Edmund Schofield, Arnoldia

In August and September 1921, Arnold Arboretum dendrologists Susan Delano McKelvey and John George Jack made a botanical collecting expedition to Montana’s Glacier National Park. Accompanying them were McKelvey’s teenage son Delano, and her assistant, a Mr. Dall (who’s first name we do not know).

Whitebark pine Pinus albicaulis at Piegan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana. Photograph taken by Mr. Dall for Susan McKelvey, September 1921.
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) at Piegan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana. Photograph taken by Mr. Dall for Susan McKelvey, September 1921. Archives of the Arnold Arboretum.

Leaving New York on August 21, the group traveled by train past the Great Lakes, westward through the Dakotas, arriving at Glacier National Park several days later. McKelvey kept detailed notes of the flora she observed from the train car windows along their route.

Largely unexplored from a botanical perspective, Glacier National Park proved to be a diverse region. McKelvey and Jack made seed and live plant collections from 95 woody and 244 herbaceous taxa of plants. The majority of collections were also represented by herbarium vouchers, such as this Douglas maple (Acer glabrum var. douglasii) or this grand fir (Abies grandis).

McKelvey’s journal and collection list mention 22 distinct collection locations, all within the state of Montana, and most within the boundaries of the National Park. She often associated her collecting locations with the nearest named lake, including Lake McDonald, Swiftcurrent Lake, and Iceberg Lake. Photographs taken by Mr. Dall, accompanied McKelvey’s detailed trip journal.

The trip to Glacier National Park served as McKelvey’s introduction to botanical exploration. The skills she acquired from working with John Jack on this trip would serve her well in the future as a plant explorer, author, and authority on the flora of the desert Southwest.

Back in Boston

Fifteen of McKelvey’s collections from this expeditions were accessioned and planted out in the Arboretum’s Rockery along the north side of Valley Road. Unfortunately, none of these plants remain alive in the landscape today.

Dig Deeper

Read about Susan Delano McKelvey in Arnoldia.

Many herbarium specimens from this expedition have been digitized and are available in the Harvard University Herbaria database.

  • A full list of all of John Jack’s herbarium collections from 1921, which include collections from this trip, are here.
  • A full list of all of Susan McKelvey’s herbarium collections from 1921, which include collections from this trip, are here.