Plant Collecting & Mounting Guidelines

Whether you are an amateur or a professional botanist, the steps for preserving specimens and building your collection are the same. If you are a researcher outside the field of botany, botanical voucher specimens should be collected for any scientific research or survey studies involving plants. 

Checklist for specimen selection and preparation
1. Collect only native or naturalized species from natural environments. Avoid ornamental, horticultural, and agriculturally grown plants. Collect as many identifying characteristics of the plant as you can (i.e. flowers, fruits, leaves, roots, etc.). Focus on populations of approximately 20 or more herbaceous plants and well-established single shrubs and trees. In situations where collecting a specimen may be detrimental to the reproductive success of a population or if the specimen is difficult to obtain, take a picture. Photographs should be printed on archival paper.

2. When filling your plant press, begin at the bottom and work up (photo) to minimize disturbance of previously pressed plants. Place each plant in a single fold of newspaper, layer with the next cardboard and blotter, and so on (photo). Do not overstuff plant material into a press. Be neat. Make sure the plant fits nicely into the press. If needed, bend plants into a 'V' or 'N' shape before pressing. Parts that stick out of the press won't dry properly and may get broken off. Remember, if your plant fits into your press, it will fit onto a mounting sheet.

3. Moldy, messy, moist, and/or inadequate specimens cannot be used. Before pressing, clean dirt from plant roots and try not to press very wet specimens. When pressing, try to orient leaves so that you can see both upper and lower surfaces. Press flowers so that the interior reproductive structures are visible (open faced). Pressing plants can actually be quite artistic; use your imagination!

4. Write the scientific name of the plant (if known) on the outside edge of the fold of newspaper (photo). A brief note about location may also be very helpful. Record a personal collection number; this will greatly reduce potential confusion and mix-ups later in processing.

5. Plants must be dried in a plant drier within 24 hours of collection. After drying, carefully remove plants. Leave plants in the paper in which they were originally pressed.

6. Each specimen must be A) adequate, B) neatly pressed and dried, C) properly and correctly labeled. (photo) 

7. Prepare temporary specimen labels on 3" x 5" note cards or in your collection notebook for those that you have identified. Include as much information as you can, including location, habitat, associated species, soil type, etc. (photo) 

8. Finished labels, neatly typed (12 pt font, approx. 3.5" x 4") should be loosely placed inside the newspapers with the appropriate specimens. Be sure to include multiple labels if you have collected enough material for multiple mounting sheets. DO NOT tape or glue down specimens or labels within the newspaper.

Specimens are now ready for Mounting.