"The French government sent Michaux to the United States to collect North American seeds, shrubs, and trees ; he landed at New York City on 1 October, accompanied by his son [François-André Michaux] and a gardener. In 1786 he established a nursery at Hackensack, N.J., and the following year another at Charleston, S.C., from both of which he shipped many boxes of seeds and thousands of trees to the park at Rambouillet, France.
"Between 1786 and 1792 he botanized through much of the United States from New York to Florida and as far west as West Virginia and eastern Kentucky; in the same period he also visited Spanish Florida and the Bahamas. In 1792 Michaux decided to pursue his botanical studies in Lower Canada. On 2 June he met the retired fur trader Peter Pond near New Haven, Conn.; Pond informed him that the fur-trade canoes to the west, which Michaux may have considered accompanying, had left Montreal at the end of April. Michaux eventually proceeded to Montreal, where he arrived on 30 June. He remained there into July, botanizing and meeting several members of the fur-trading merchant class, including Joseph Frobisher and Alexander Henry, whom he undoubtedly questioned about the flora of the west. He then went to Quebec, where he spent several days with Dr John Mervin Nooth, discussing Nooth’s scientific inventions, inspecting his garden, herborizing, and preparing a voyage to James Bay.
"Late in July, Michaux, accompanied by a mixed-blood interpreter, left Quebec for the Rivière Saguenay. On 5 August he arrived at Tadoussac, where he hired three Indian guides, and on the 7th the party started up the Saguenay in two bark canoes. On the 10th they reached the fur-trade post of Chicoutimi, and six days later Lac Saint-Jean, where Michaux explored extensively the shores and the surrounding forest. Following the Rivière Mistassini and small rivers and lakes, he arrived at Lac Mistassini on 4 September. Two days later, after proceeding about 25 miles down the Rivière de Rupert, which flows into James Bay, he was forced by bad weather and the late season to turn back, about 400 miles short of his objective.
"As on all his voyages, Michaux daily recorded in a journal the conditions of travel, the day’s progress, and the plants he had observed or discovered ; as well, when possible, he noted their most northerly limits. He observed, for example, that the great rapids on the Mistassini marked the limit of Potentilla tridentata, or three-toothed cinquefoil, and that Gaultheria procumbens, or wintergreen, disappeared ten leagues up the same river from Lac Saint-Jean. One of the last specimens he collected was Primula mistassinica, or bird’s-eye primrose, found along the Rivière de Rupert, and named by him. Michaux also wrote of his admiration for his guides’ ability to manipulate the canoes and added that, although he never feared drowning, “these voyages are frightening for those not accustomed to them, and I would advise the Little Masters of London or Paris . . . to stay home.”
"Michaux arrived at Montreal in October 1792. On 2 December he was back at New York City, and in January 1793 he shipped to France seeds he had collected. In May he met Edmond Charles Genet, minister plenipotentiary to the United States of the French revolutionary government, who hoped to promote the revolution in Lower Canada; Michaux gave him several memoranda containing his observations on former French colonies in North America, including Canada. Genêt persuaded Michaux to undertake a secret political mmission to Kentucky, the nature of which is still largely unclear. From 1793 to 1796 he continued to botanize in the United States, travelling as far west as the Mississippi River. He was increasingly hampered by the French government’s failure since 1789 to support him financially, and in 1796 he was finally obliged to abandon his project. On 13 August he left Charleston, but one month later his ship was wrecked off the coast of Holland ; his herbarium was damaged, some of his manuscripts were lost, and Michaux himself almost perished. He reached Paris in January 1797 to discover that, of the thousands of trees he had sent since his arrival in North America, few had survived the ravages of the revolution. Moreover, he was unsuccessful in efforts to recover the arrears of his salary or to obtain financial support for a return trip to North America.
"In October 1800 Michaux was engaged as a naturalist in a scientific expedition bound for Australia under the direction of Captain Nicolas Baudin. Always more comfortable working alone, Michaux left ship at Île de France (Mauritius) in April 1801 and proceeded to Madagascar, where he died of fever – according to some historians, on 13 Nov. 1802 near Tamatave, but, according to a member of the expedition, on 11 Oct. 1803 at Tananarive." (Judith F. M. Hoeniger, ).
Digital facsimile from Biodiversity Heritage Library at this link.