Have some fun collecting and pressing plants

Old phone books with a brick on top can function as an inexpensive plant press.

If you intend to do a lot of plant pressing purchase a traditional plant press from craft/ toy stores or make one for yourself.

To make you own plant press you will need:

  1. Wood or plywood:
    two pieces of 30 cm by 45 cm, 5-10 mm thick. Holes drilled in the board will assist ventilation/ drying.
  2. Cardboard:
    At least 5-10 pieces of corrugated cardboard and no more than 20 (30cm X 45 cm).
  3. Newspaper:
    A supply of newspaper to be used as blotter paper between cardboard layers.
  4. Tie-downs:
    Anything that will hold the layers under pressure is adequate. Suggestions: Canvas strapping, bricks.
Home made plant press

Assembly and Use

The ideal time to collect leaves and flowers for pressing is late afternoon on a dry day because this is when a plant's moisture content is at its lowest. Press before they wilt (ideally within 20 minutes), specimens should fit the size of the press.

Plant material can be sprayed lightly with insect spray if necessary, try to remove caterpillars etc before pressing.

To set up the drying press, each plant specimen is enclosed between two or three dry newspaper layers separated by cardboard, to give cardboard / newspaper/ specimen / newspaper/ cardboard.

Whenever specimens with particularly bulky stems, fruits or flowers are put in the drying press, additional packing of folded newspaper, or extra newspaper must be inserted both to apply proper pressure on thinner plant parts and to allow the press to stack evenly. Fruits can be stored separated in a jar of alcohol or preservative (eg Methylated Spririts) get assistance from an adult, note fruits are likely to discolour, loose seeds in a labeled envelope. Drying time will vary depending on the temperature, humidity and type of plant. Papers must be changed after the first day, and every day if the plant is moist or humidity is high. Be careful not to rip flowers if they are stuck to papers, delicate flowers and aquatic plants can be placed on baking paper and then newspaper to avoid having them stick to the newspaper.

Dry flowers will be stiff and papery. Removing the flowers before they are completely dry could cause them to shrink and pucker. It is important that the plant material be dried so that it will not grow mould. Changing the newspaper more frequently can assist, or placing the plant press somewhere warm, but not hot, such as on top of an hot water system.

Plant Pressings:

  • Are helpful for learning about different plants
  • can preserve plants when they are in flower for later identification.
  • Can be used to check with an expert if you are not sure about a plant.
  • Can be collected to form a useful library, known as a herbarium, to help identify other plants found later.
  • Provide a record of plant species of an area.
Melaleuca specimen in plant press

Pressed flowers and leaves can be used to enhance writing paper, create greeting cards, bookmarks, decorate gift tags, and embellish photo albums or mount a specimen in a glass frame.

Label Your Pressings

  • Location collected
  • Name of plant (common and scientific)
  • Date collected
  • Name of collector(s)
  • Special notes, eg flower or fruit colour, soil/ geology, Regional Ecosystem, GPS coordinates, abundance.

For more information on collecting and pressing plants visit the Queensland Herbarium website: Queensland Herbarium

Warning: if you are collecting invasive species, be careful! Don't spread the seeds that make more weeds!

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