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An herbarium is a collection of dried and pressed plants. For hundreds of years scientists and plant lovers have preserved dried
plants for study in herbariums. The great taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus had 14,000 specimens in his herbarium!
Plant presses work best for drying and pressing flowers and plants, but they can also be effectively pressed between newspaper and books.
Herbariums can contain entire plants (including roots), seeds, leaves, or flowers. Try to gather specimens from a variety of places: your backyard or garden, a field, a river or lake shore, a beach, a swamp, or a forest.
Use a tree, weed, or flower guide to identify your specimens. You may want to write out a label with the specimen's common and scientific names, as well as the date and the location where you found it. Press your specimens as soon after collecting as possible. They should take about 1-3 weeks to dry out completely.
Attach the pressed specimens to heavy paper or cardstock. Thin strips of masking tape or plastic tape work well for whole plant specimens and glue works well for attaching seeds. Be sure to include a label for each specimen.
Here are more detailed directions for pressing and mounting plant specimens:
- Lay your specimen out so it looks attractive and the main features of
the plant can be seen clearly. For large specimens, you may have to
bend the stems in a sharp zigzag pattern so they will fit on the page.
You can also cut the plant in half and show the top half and bottom
half side by side.
- It is a good idea to show both sides of the leaves, since the top and
bottom often look very different. You can also leave space to glue a small envelope to hold seeds
and other small parts.
- There are several methods you can use to mount your specimens, but
one of the most common is called the glass-plate method. Traditionally
botanists used glass plates for this, but you can use an aluminum cookie
sheet. Dilute some white glue (like Elmer's) with water and spread it in a thin layer over the cookie sheet. (For delicate specimens, use thinner glue than for thick, woody stems.) Carefully set your specimen on the sheet so all parts touch
the glue. If you need to, blot the plant on newspaper
before placing it on the plant mounting page. Gently press on
the specimen with a paper towel to fix it to the page and blot up any
excess glue. Then cover each page with wax paper and stack them with cardboard in
between. Put a weight on top of the stack and let the glue dry overnight. When it's dry, carefully slide each page into a plastic page