Politics Along The Trail

When companions and I are out walking Adirondack trails, we often find ourselves discussing everything under the sun---except politics. Why spoil a beautiful day? 

Yet once in a while, I can't resist stirring up a little respectful discussion of current affairs. The best way to do so, I've found, is to point out that a low-growing, green-flowered, glossy-leaved wildflower along the trail is named for a politician named Clinton.

The usual first response is laughter. I go on to point out that the plant is named not for Bill or Hillary but for DeWitt (1769-1828). This Clinton was a distinguished naturalist as well as a politician. In addition to having the Clintonia lily (Clintonia borealis)  named after him, DeWitt Clinton served as Mayor of New York City, as the sixth Governor of New York, and as a United States Senator from New York. In 1812, he ran for President against the incumbent James Madison. President Madison prevailed, if only by a small margin, but one could argue that Clinton won the greater prize. He had a classic Adirondack wildflower wildflower named for him.

Today, DeWitt Clinton is best remembered for his leadership building infrastructure in his home state. The Erie Canal, sometimes called "Clinton's Ditch" or "Clinton's Folly" by detractors, was his greatest accomplishment. Thousands of laborers, a great many of them recent immigrants, had much to do with it, too.

Clintonia borealis is also called bluebead lily. The small yellow-green flowers ripen into a gorgeous cluster of lucious-looking blue berries. Unfortunately, they're poisonous.