Follow a 1910 Botanical Expedition through Western Cuba

By Dr. Emily Sessions

Apr 22 2021

The United States entered the Spanish American War in April of 1898. The war ended in December of the same year with the Treaty of Paris, which gave the United States temporary control of Cuba and ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands. The US military occupied Cuba on and off through 1922, and continued to intervene throughout Latin America and the Pacific during this time.

Simultaneously, institutions in the United States, including the New York Botanical Garden, were mounting scientific explorations of many of these same locations, including Cuba. The Garden led around 136 botanical expeditions between 1898 and 1918. Half of these were to the Caribbean, and twenty – one in seven of all expeditions led by the Garden for the first twenty years – were to Cuba specifically.

Follow the path of one such expedition, a trip made by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Elizabeth Knight Britton, and Dr. C. Stuart Gager in 1910 that was published in the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden as “Botanical Exploration in Western Cuba.”

See specimens collected at each location and related quotes from Britton's report. They reference US companies that were taking over Cuban sugar production, the infrastructure built during contentious US military occupations, and even hint at the coming rise of the tourism industry on Cuba.

More about: Caribbean

Dr. Emily Sessions is the current 2020-21 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in at the Humanities Institute of the New York Botanical Garden.


Brian M. Boom, “Botanical Expeditions of The New York Botanical Garden,” Brittonia 48 (1996): 297–307;
Brian M. Boom, “The New York Botanical Garden and the Making of The Bahama Flora, 1920,” Botanical Review 80, no. 3 (September 2014): 152–63;
Carolyn McSherry, “The Territorial Politics of the New York Botanical Garden, 1891-1912,” (University of New Mexico, 2018);
Nathaniel Lord Britton, “Botanical Exploration in Western Cuba.” Journal of the New York Botanical Garden XI, no. 130 (October 1910): 226–35
Peter Philip Mickulas, Britton’s Botanical Empire: The New York Botanical Garden and American Botany, 1888-1929, Memoirs of The New York Botanical Garden, v. 94 (Bronx, N.Y: New York Botanical Garden, 2007).