Preserved plant specimens give us information about plant diversity and distribution. A good plant collection is of lasting benefit. It is like a 3-D photograph, representing information that is frozen in time and made available for all time. People still study specimens collected in the 1600s. This means that your specimens might still be studied in 2400 A.D.
Plant specimens can be stored in a special 'library' called an herbarium. The Intermountain Herbarium at the Utah State University in Logan is one of these. You can make your own herbarium of plants you have found. Or you can even help develop an herbarium for your school or county.
Activity: Use the term "plant collecting" to search the web for other interesting sites about plant collecting.
Plant specimens will rot unless they are preserved properly. They can be pickled, frozen or bottled, but an easy (and cheap) way to preserve most plants is to press and dry them. This must be done well if plants are to be identified, stored, displayed or used for research.
Why make a collection?
As you make your collection and identify the plants in it, you will learn about the different kinds of plants that grow around you. You'll probably be surprised at how many different kinds you can find! You might like to start with a collection of the plants that grow around your home. Botanists make collections for the same reason. They use them to learn about the different kinds of plants in the world. They put their collections in herbaria so that other botanists can use them as well. Two such herbaria are the Intermountain Herbarium in Logan, Utah, USA and the National Herbarium of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. To find other herbarium websites click here.
A plant collecting kit
The tools needed for collecting plants are:
- clippers to cut plants
- digger to dig plants
- plastic and paper bags to put your plants in until you can press them
- a field notebook with your name on it
- small tags to attach to the plant specimen
- a pencil
- a map of the area (a GPS unit is a helpful addition)
- plant press