Saturday 6 December 2014

Pressing plant specimens

After we have collected the plant specimens in the field, we have to preserve the ones that are going to the herbaria in Melbourne and Sydney. The group also has its own reference collection, and each artist keeps a pressing of the plant she is painting.

The plants are preserved by pressing. We are conscious that herbaria are short of resources and space and only want quality specimens. We try to collect plants in flower or with fruit as these are usually critical for identification.

The plant is laid out on two inter-weaved pieces of newspaper. We carefully spread out structures (i.e. leaves, flowers) so that diagnostic features are clearly evident and make sure that both the upper and the lower leaf surface are visible by turning over some leaves.
Stem of Cullen australasicum folded to fit the paper. It is a specimen with buds, flowers and some seeds. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)

The plant needs to be tagged next. The little jeweller's tag has the name of the plant, the date of collection, the voucher number (the voucher is our record keeping book), the year of the Project, and the name of the artist.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

The same information is written on the edge of the newspaper. This is really helpful if we need to look through the stack for a particular specimen. It is much easier to read that information than open up each "parcel" of newspaper to find the one we are looking for.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2014)
The plant is then ready to add to the stack of pressed specimens. Cardboard helps to give rigidity to the pressing.

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson 2013)

Some people have very fancy presses!

Keeping track of what has been collected when and by whom is a daunting task. Amy, Mali and Valerie do a great job of keeping on top of things.

Over the week the piles of pressed specimens collect in the Hall......

 (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

......and then they have to be transported back to Melbourne!

(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2014)

For more detailed information about our collecting procedure, look at our Herbarium Specimen Collecting Guide.

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