Lewis’ Mock Orange
Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Even though we had it growing in our family garden at home, its fragrance brought to mind pictures of tall columns and antebellum mansions from the Deep South. Perhaps that was why I was surprised to see it growing wild along a cascading river in the mountains of Idaho. Memories have a strange way of arranging things to their own liking. But I shouldn’t have been surprised, for the Lewis’ Mock Orange is the state flower of Idaho. The Lewis and Clark Expedition discovered it in 1804 and two years later Meriwether Lewis collected a specimen on their return trip and the plant was named after him.

We value it for its clusters of brilliant white blossoms as well as its sweet fragrance which reminds many of orange blossoms. Native Americans employed it in more practical ways such as in the construction of arrows and fishing tools, snowshoes, pipes, and furniture.

There is a close connection between smells and memories from the past. Marcel Proust wrote about this in his seven-part work, Remembrance of Things Past, and this connection between the two is referred to as a “Proustian Memory” for that reason. Scientists have determined this is caused by the olfactory bulb which is part of the limbic system and is sometimes referred to as the “emotional brain”. It may be the reason Paul used these emotion-filled words to describe the life of a God-centered person: “As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us.” (2 Corinthians 2:15 Living Bible)