Making Good Specimens
Now you can collect your plant and make your own specimens
Before you pick any part of any plant remember to consider:
Pick your specimen
Steps to good collecting
Preserve your specimen
There are two parts to preserving specimens
Pressing | Drying
Well made specimens can be both valuable scientific resources and visually attractive. Try to do both, but recognize that some species will frustrate you. Some specimens will blacken soon after being collected, in others just the flower color changes, possibly from a vibrant red to a dull purple. Most species in the Logan region make good specimens, but remember -
No specimen can be made to look better after it has been pressed.
Press your plants while they are still fresh.
How to press good specimens
It is important to tighten your press straps well for good pressing. This can be done more easily by using your foot to tighten the straps as demonstrated in this picture.
There are special techniques for pressing seaweeds and other water plants. Put the mounting paper in a pan of water and float the plant onto the paper. Most seaweeds will glue themselves to the paper and make very attractive specimens. Red algae are particularly beautiful when pressed. Place wax paper or plastic between the seaweed and the newsprint or the seaweed will glue itself to the newsprint.
Specimens look best if dried by having air move over them. This is why sheets of corrugated cardboard are used in the press. Put the whole press in a warm, airy place until the specimens are completely dried out. The air temperature should be no more than 100°F or thereabouts.
In Utah, driving down the road with the plant press on a roof rack is very effective for drying plants. Placing the press over a heating vent at home is also effective.
Identify your specimen
You might recognize your plant or be able to guess the name, someone else might even name it for you. However, it is always best to check the name by working it out using reference books and botanical keys. If you do not know the name of the plant then this is the best way to work it out.
An on-line identification resource for tropical and some temperate plants can be found at ARTEMIS.
Specimens can be identified years after they have been collected, but it best to identify them as soon as possible, while the fresh material you set aside for that purpose is still fresh. If you cannot identify them immediately, make labels for them, leaving the name blank and put the label in with the specimen.
Mount your specimen
You will probably want to make your specimens look nice and last well so you will need to mount your specimens.
Use glue, sticky tape or a needle and thread to attach each specimen to a clean sheet of thin cardboard or heavy mounting paper.
If you use standard sized paper you can store them in a loose-leaf binder for easy access.
The dried plant will be brittle so if it is properly dried, put your mounted specimen in a plastic or paper cover if you will be handling it often, or if it is to go on display.
Large herbaria need to ensure that their specimens will last for hundreds of years so they must use acid-free paper and special glues and inks that do not deteriorate.
Store your specimens
Store your specimens in a dry place. Freezing your dried specimens for 2 weeks will kill insects if they attack your specimens.
The same pressing and drying techniques can be used to prepare leaves and flowers to decorate cards and pictures. It is always important to dry them for long enough to make sure they do not rot later. Some color will be lost as they are dried.
Another way to dry plants for decoration so that they keep their shape is to hang them upside-down to dry.
This site was designed by Kathan
Last updated June 2000