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The vegetable productions of this country by no means engaged my attention so much as the animal creation; which is the less to be wondered at, as so few of them are useful for the support of man. Yet I will endeavour to enumerate as many of them as I think are worth notice.

June 11, 1772


A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean in the Years 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772

Samuel Hearne

Facultative Carnivore
Pre-civilization races
Carnivore Diet

Of the Vegetable Productions.

The vegetable productions of this country by no means engaged my attention so much as the animal creation; which is the less to be wondered at, as so few of them are useful for the support of man. Yet I will endeavour to enumerate as many of them as I think are worth notice.


The Gooseberries thrive best in stony and rocky ground, which lies open and much exposed to the Sun. But in those situations few of the bushes grow to any height, and spread along the ground like vines. The fruit is always most plentiful and the finest on the under-side of the branches, probably owing to the reflected heat from the stones and gravel, and from being sheltered from all cold winds and fog by the leaves. I never saw more than one species of Gooseberry in any part of Hudson's Bay, which is the red one. When green, they make excellent pies or tarts; and when ripe are very pleasant eating, though by no means so large as those produced in England.


Cranberries grow in great abundance near Churchill, and are not confined to any particular situation, for they are as common on open bleak plains and high rocks as among the woods. When carefully gathered in the Fall, in dry weather, and as carefully packed in casks with moist sugar, they will keep for years, and are annually sent to England in considerable quantities as presents, where they are much esteemed. When the ships have remained in the Bay so late that the Cranberries are ripe, some of the Captains have carried them home in water with great success.


The Heathberries are in some years so plentiful near Churchill, that it is impossible to walk in many places without treading on thousands and millions of them. They grow close to the ground, and are a favourite repast of many birds that migrate to those parts in Summer, particularly the Grey Goose; on which account the Indians distinguish them by the name of Nishca-minnick, or the Grey Gooseberry. The juice of this berry makes an exceeding pleasant beverage, and the fruit itself would be more pleasing were it not for the number of small seeds it contains.


Bethago-tominick, as it is called by the Indians, or the Dewater-berry of Mr. Dragge. I have seen this berry as far North as Marble Island, and that in great abundance. It flourishes best, and is most productive, in swampy boggy ground covered with moss, and is seldom found among grass. The plant itself is not very unlike that of a Strawberry, but the leaves are larger. Out of the center of the plant shoots a single stalk, sometimes to the height of seven or eight inches, and each plant only produces one berry, which at some distance resembles a Strawberry; but on examination they have not that conical form; and many of them are only composed of three or four lobes, while others consist of nearly twenty. The flavour of this berry is far from unpleasing, and it is eaten by our people in considerable quantities during the season, (which is August,) and, like all the other fruits in those parts, is supposed to be wholesome, and a great antiscorbutic.


Currans, both red and black, are common about Churchill River, but the latter are far more plentiful than the former, and are very large and fine. The bushes on which those currans grow, frequently exceed three feet in height, and generally thrive best in those parts that are moist but not swampy. Small vallies between the rocks, at some little distance from the woods, are very favourable to them; and I have frequently observed that the fruit produced in those situations is larger and finer than that which is found in the woods. Those berries have a very great effect on some people if eaten in any considerable quantities, by acting as a very powerful purgative, and in some as an emetic at the same time; but if mixed with Cranberries, they never have that effect.


Juniper-berries are frequently found near the new settlement at Churchill River, but by no means in such plenty as in the more Southern and interior parts of the country. The bush they grew on is so similar to the creeping pine, that one half of the Company's servants residing in Hudson's Bay do not know one from the other. Like the Gooseberry bushes in those parts, the fruit is always most plentiful on the under side of the branches. They are not much esteemed either by the Indians or English, so that the few that are made use of are generally infused in brandy, by way of making a cordial, which is far from unpleasant.


Strawberries, and those of a considerable size and excellent flavour, are found as far North as Churchill River; and what is most remarkable, they are frequently known to be more plentiful in such places as have formerly been set on fire. This is not peculiar to the Strawberry, but it is well known that in the interior parts of the country, as well as at Albany and Moose Forts, that after the ground, or more properly the under-wood and moss, have been set on fire, that Raspberry-bushes and Hips have shot up in great numbers on spots where nothing of the kind had ever been seen before. This is a phænomenon that is not easily accounted for; but it is more than probable that Nature wanted some assistance, and the moss being all burnt away, not only admits the sun to act with more power, but the heat of the fire must, in some measure, loosen the texture of the soil, so as to admit the plants to shoot up, after having been deep-rooted for many years without being able to force their way to the surface.

Besides the Berries already mentioned, there are three others found as far North as Churchill; namely, what the Indians call the Eye-berry, and the other two are termed Blue-berry and Partridge-berry by the English.


The Eye-berry grows much in the same manner as the Strawberry, and though smaller, is infinitely superior in flavour. This berry is found in various situations; but near Churchill River they are most plentiful in small hollows among the rocks, which are situated some distance from the woods; but they are never known to grow in swampy ground, and I never saw them so plentiful in any part of Hudson's Bay as about Churchill River.


The Blue-berry is about the size of a Hurtle-berry, and grows on bushes which rise to eighteen inches or two feet, but in general are much lower. They are seldom ripe till September, at which time the leaves turn to a beautiful red; and the fruit, though small, have as fine a bloom as any plum, and are much esteemed for the pleasantness of their flavour.


The Partridge-berry is nearly as large as the Cranberry imported from Newfoundland, and though of a beautiful transparent red, yet has a disagreeable taste. These berries are seldom taken, either by the Indians or English; and many of the latter call them Poison-berries, but several birds are fond of them. They grow close to the ground, like the Cranberry, and the plant that produces them is not very unlike small sage, either in shape or colour, but has none of its virtues.

I had nearly forgotten another species of Berry, which is found on the dry ridges at Churchill in considerable numbers. In size and colour they much resemble the Red Curran, and grow on bushes so much like the Creeping Willow, that people of little observation scarcely know the difference; particularly as all the fruit is on the under-side of the branches, and entirely hid by the leaves. I never knew this Berry eaten but by a frolicksome Indian girl; and as it had no ill effect, it is a proof it is not unwholesome, though exceedingly unpleasant to the palate, and not much less so to the smell.


Hips of a small size, though but few in number, are also found on the banks of Churchill River, at some distance from the sea. But in the interior parts of the country they are frequently found in such vast quantities, that at a distance they make the spots they grow on appear perfectly red. In the interior parts of Hudson's Bay they are as large as any I ever remember to have seen, and when ripe, have a most delightful bloom; but at that season there is scarcely one in ten which has not a worm in it; and they frequently act as a strong purgative.

With respect to the smaller productions of the vegetable world, I am obliged to be in a great measure silent, as the nature of my various occupations during my residence in this country gave me little leisure, and being unacquainted with botany, I viewed with inattention things that were not of immediate use: the few which follow are all that particularly engaged my attention.