We are very conscious that we are exploring a fragile environment. We collect our specimens according to guidelines from the National Herbarium Melbourne. We collect no more than 15% of the community of plants in the collecting area. Collected plants are pressed, and detailed information about the plant, its location, habit and habitat are recorded. Those specimens are then given to the herbaria of Melbourne and Sydney. The following is from our document
Beckler's Botanical Bounty: Guideline for artists collecting and pressing herbarium specimens
If you are interested in seeing the full PDF document, please contact us and we can forward it on to you.
Guidelines for Artists Collecting and Pressing
This document provides guidance to BBB artists on how to collect, press and record information regarding their BBB plant specimen. It also gives an example of types of equipment you may need, and how to fill out a herbarium label.
Collecting for the BBB Project
To meet the objectives of the BBB project it is recommended that each artist, collecting each plant specimen, consider the following general instructions:
- First choose a plant species you wish to illustrate before collecting herbarium specimens.
- If collecting in a National Park (e.g. Kinchega National Park) you can only do so with a current collectors permit or if you go with someone who has a permit.
- When collecting any one species, collect enough to aesthetically fill a herbarium sheet, keeping in mind the collecting guidelines of collecting a maximum of 15% of plants from any given community of plants. These are strict requirements if collecting in a National Park with a current collector's license
- Collect plants in flower and/or fruit. These are usually critical for identification.
- Make specimens large enough to present a fair sample of the plant, its manner of growth, branching and so on.
- Look at plant specimens with the eye of what would make the best paintings. Specimens should be representative of the plant.
- Take good quality photographs of the plant in situ and include a scale measurement like a ruler or common recognizable item, include reference photos of the location in the field, including any landmarks.
- Choose quality plant material not quantity, herbaria are short of resources and only want quality voucher specimens.
- If the plant is tightly tangled separate the pieces so botanists can observe the plant's details. Herbaria generally don't like soil remaining on the roots. If soil is considered significant place some in a cellophane bag and attach to top right corner of sheet.
- Collect enough plant material for 3 -‐ 4 herbarium sheets, keeping in mind the collecting guidelines of collecting a maximum of 15% of plants from any given community of plants. One each for NSW and Victorian herbaria, one to retain for our own BBB reference collection and one to accompany the artwork. It is best to press the very sample your painting is done from. You may collect more plant material in order to create your painting.
- All specimens must be labelled with a jewellers tag with: Name of plant, Date, Voucher number, BBB year, Name of artist
- Try to press plants and record information in the field, do not rely on your memory. Take all notes on location, including a GPS reading.
- When pressing a specimen, carefully spread out structures (i.e. leaves, flowers) so that diagnostic features are clearly evident. Make sure that both the upper and the lower leaf surface are visible by turning over some leaves.
- Specimens in newspaper must have written along the bottom: Name of plant, Date, Voucher number, BBB year, Name of artist
- The collector should write all information into their own recording booklet in the field, then copy this into the BBB label book kept at the hall.
- Check pressings after a day, if the paper is still damp change the paper to avoid mouldy growth and continue to check every day or two until dry.
- Pressing long items, start from the bottom right corner as if it is above the herbarium label pointing up towards the top of the sheet, then fold down towards the bottom left, then up to top left, creating a zig-‐zag pattern.
- For bulbs, slice the bulb in half from the bottom where the roots are, slicing up the stem without it detaching from the plant. Then slide the top half across slightly in order to diminish the bulkiness for pressing and storage purposes.
List of Equipment for Collecting Herbarium Specimens
The following equipment is recommended for field collections and pressing of plant specimens:
- Field press. Typically 2 frames as pictured below.
- Newspaper, corrugated cardboard
- Rope (e.g. sash cord) or webbing straps with claw buckles: minimum length needed 1.5 m.
- Personal field recording book and pencil
- Tie on label tags
- Pair of secateurs and trowel
- Collecting bags: Snap lock plastic bags, in a several of sizes
- Plastic containers or bucket
- GPS: you may have one on your smart phone
General Herbarium Specimen Collection Guidelines
- Herbaria are generally short of space and resources, therefore it is important to make quality specimens.
- Specimens should be representative of the plant. Specimens should look like a living entity. If sizes vary in the population, collect a range.
- Use the space on the herbarium sheet wisely (approx. 17 x 11 inches). Occupy the whole sheet but not to the edges (leave at a couple of cm gap around sheet edge). Keep in mind the 15% restrictions on removing plants.
- If collecting small single plants, consider including more than one specimen to occupy the whole the herbarium sheet.
- Woody specimens ~ if about the size of a 50 cent piece, press with specimen but use extra newspaper to flatten out. Large fruit and cones should go in separate herbarium boxes.
- Key information needs to be captured in the label (see below). For example include (were relevant) flower colour, smell, soil type, aspect etc
- Herbarium specimens are used for many purposes these days e.g. molecular analysis. So it is important to keep quality documentation and scientific details throughout the project.
The information recorded on the label is as important as the specimen itself. Even though a specimen may have been well collected and carefully prepared, it will be of negligible scientific value unless accompanied by basic collecting data and field notes.
Filling out the Label
Fill in as much as you can in the field. Leave any point blank if unknown, someone will help you later. An example copy of the label is in your personal recording booklet.
Essential Label Information
Legible handwriting on the label makes databasing more possible.
Authority: this is the person who originally named the plant
Infraspecific name: this means the name of the subspecies or variety, any name below the rank of species
Det: this stands for determinavit, this is the person who identifies the plant collected
Date: of the determinavit
Collector: name of person making the collection
No: this is the herbarium label number in sequence in the BBB label book
Date: of this collection
Additional Collector(s): name others who are with you
Alt: altitude reading if you know it
Depth: refers to water collections
Grid Ref: leave blank
Lat: latitude reading essential in any form It is helpful to indicate the source of the geocode, such as GPS or map
Long: longitude reading essential in any form
Locality: describe where you are, place/area name, include road names, road junctions and distance from nearest place/town name or landmarks
Other Useful Label Information
Note any information on characters and field observations that cannot be observed from the pressed specimen:
Substrate: describe the soil type on which the specimen is growing
Host: name the host if your plant is growing on another plant
Habitat: include a brief description of where the plant is growing describe where the plant is growing, the type of plant community and environmental conditions eg. grassland; grazed paddock; weedy roadside etc., name other plants growing in association, if known
Habit: record the growth form (e.g. tree; shrub; vine; herb) and height (e.g. dense shrub to 2 metres high; sprawling herb). For trees, record the bark type and extent (e.g. rough bark up to 2 metres on main trunk, smooth above). Bark type is especially important in Eucalyptus. Also record the colour of fresh stems, leaves, flowers, odour etc. Note abundance: number of plants at site, frequency in the area (rare, occasional, frequent/common or abundant).
Notes: include any other interesting or unusual information. Insert "Project Beckler's Botanical Bounty painting by ... [your name]"
Dupls: this means duplicates of the voucher specimen. In this case circle it and write BBB and NSW, include global registered standard herbarium code.
Cult: this stands for culture, ie tissue culture for propagation, ignore this and leave blank or strikethrough.
Slide: this means a microscope slide ie for spores of fungi. Leave this blank or strikethrough.
Photo: make sure to take a photo and circle this, note name of photographer as these can be offered to RBG for online reference and Flora of Australia, strike thru transparency
Carpol: this stands for carpological which means there is a separate fruit collection ie bulky item in a separate box
Spirit: this means there is a separate collection of delicate plant parts preserved in spirit solution
Voucher: circle this
More information can be found on the website of the Royal Botanic Garden Melbourne. The following may be interesting.