Pressing plants

Pressing plants

For a long time I’ve wanted to learn how to press plants.  I like the idea of creating beautiful framed works of art using pressed flowers and herbs.  I had saved two large squares of cardboard for the project, and today I begged some newspaper from my mother-in-law’s recycling bin.  I attempted to entice both the boys in collecting specimens with me, and only succeeded in gaining Summer’s help.  So we happily trudged out back with a basket, scissors, notecards and a pen, to collect some samples.

The concept is very simple, and has been utilized by naturalists and scientists for hundreds of years to dry and preserve specimens for safe travel across vast continents and turbulent seas.  Plant presses are an important scientific tool, without them specimens would wither and perish before researchers have adequate time to study and deliberate over them.

Presses can be small, just big enough to fit in your hiking pack, ideal for collecting herbaceous plant leaves, roots and flowers as you wander; or they can be large enough to press an entire plant, from root to flower.  To avoid wilting, press your plants as soon as possible after picking them.  You should also make note of the plant’s common name, Latin name, location, height, habitat, abundance, date, and other valuable information that can fade from memory and leave you blank when you’re finally ready to make use of your pressings.

Not only will the pressed plants make great gifts this holiday season, but we could even start our own herbarium, by simply arranging the specimens on acid-free paper with all of the relevant harvesting information, and glue or cover them with contact paper to easily catalog them.

Check out this video from Barb’s blog “Handbook of Nature Study”where she posts all sorts of great information and lesson plans for nature studies.

Summer and I ended up collecting nearly a dozen different plant specimens–and even though he’s only four, I use the appropriate terminology with him–there’s no reason not to.  We found some daisies, clover, Queen-Anee’s Lace, buttercup, a couple of things I’ll have to look up in the guide books, and we picked a couple of herb specimens from the garden-such as a sprig of sage, and a couple sprigs of parsley.

Having never pressed anything before, this will take a bit of experimenting; we’ll see how well the specimens turn out.  For now they’ll be sitting at the far end of our dinning room table under Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary for the next few weeks.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Have you ever pressed plants with your kids?  Got any tips or hints for us?

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