How to Collect Plants

The National Herbarium | What is a Herbarium? | Our Herbarium Collection | Type Specimens | National Virtual Herbarium

If you collect a plant specimen today, it can last for hundreds of years if properly dried and stored in the right conditions. Collecting and drying plants is a fascinating hobby, so we thought we'd give you a few guidelines to get you started.

However, please do not overcollect. We need to keep as many live plants growing in our woods and countryside as possible!

For a dried plant to be useful for future research, a number of important bits of data must be recorded and kept with the specimen. These include:

  • WHO collected the specimen
  • WHERE the specimen was collected
  • WHEN it was collected
  • WHAT it looked like when alive – Its size, colour, smell, etc.

All these details must be written down and kept with the plant.

Pressing

Take notes about features that will not be preserved on the dried specimen, such as colour, overall size, and smell of the plant. Surround the specimen with a first sheet of paper (flimsy), and then place several more sheets (drying papers) between each specimen.

Pad out bulky branches or roots with screwed up paper. Apply heavy weights, to make sure that the plant remains flat while it dries.

Lay out the plant in way that shows both the top and the bottom side of leaves, and as many features of the flowers and their arrangement on the stem as possible.

Drying

The best way is to approach this process is to dry out the drying papers rather than the plant.

Put sheets of newspaper on top of radiators or other hot surfaces until they get so dry that they crackle when touched. Then, exchange these for the sheets in your drying press daily for the first 2 or 3 days.

Also, it is best to open the press after the first few hours to rearrange the now wilted plant so that you can make sure it is well laid out.

Mounting

After drying, glue, tape or sew your specimens to a thin sheet of cardboard. Attach a label and the collection data. For mosses, lichens and some fungi, you would place them in a folded packet or envelope and attach that to the cardboard.

Storing

Store your specimens in a dry place. Freezing your dried specimens for 2 weeks will kill insects if they attack your specimens.

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How to dry flowers for home and school craft projects

If you want to dry and press flowers for craft projects, such as decorating place mats, greeting cards, candles, lampshades or sun catchers, you can get very good results using a flower press. Here's what to do:

  • Pick brightly coloured flowers or foliage after the morning dew is gone.
  • Undo the wing nuts or velcro bands on your flower press.
  • On the bottom board of the press, place a piece of cardboard topped with a sheet of blotter paper and then a sheet of white paper.
  • Place your flower on the white paper. Arrange the petals so they are as flat as possible and not covering each other.
  • Place a sheet of white paper on top of the flowers. Then add another sheet of blotter paper and a piece of cardboard.
  • Repeat this process for up to six layers of flowers, or how many your flower press will hold.
  • Place the upper board of the press on top of the pile and fasten down the wing nuts or tighten the Velcro straps. Set aside for two days.
  • After two days, undo the press and very carefully replace all the blotter paper, without disturbing the flowers. Close the press again, to continue the drying process.
  • After a month, carefully remove your pressed flowers and leaves.

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