September 19th, 1806, The Return: Determined to make the first french village (The Missouri River & Osage River Confluence) by the next day, the men paddle hard the entire day for 72 miles. Many have swollen, painfully red cheeks, and 3 have their eyeballs swollen and are in bad pain at the end of the day. Clark speculates that it could be from the sunshine reflecting off of the water to burn their corneas, and eventually remarks “This irritation was likely from handling pawpaws.”
The plant is listed as poisonous, similar to poison oak or ivy, causing painful dermatitis, an irritation and inflammation with redness, swelling and itching of the skin.
Nonetheless, the party adjusted, moving the sick men into different canoes, and continued downstream, arriving in St. Louis three days later on September 23.
The pawpaw is an oversized berry native to Missouri, and belongs to the custard apple family. The flavor is often described as a cross between a banana and a mango.
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