Specimen Selection And Preparation

1. Collect only native or naturalized species from natural environments; avoid ornamental, horticultural, agriculturally grown plants.  Do not collect a plant if there are only a few like it in the area, take a picture instead.  Collect as many identifying characteristics of the plant as you can (i.e. flowers, fruits, leaves, roots, etc.).

2. When filling your plant press, begin at the bottom and work up.  This way you minimize disturbance of previously pressed plants.  Place each plant in a single fold of newspaper, layer with the next blotter, drier and so on.  Do not over stuff 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 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 can not 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 the interior reproductive structures are visible (open faced).  Pressing plants can actually be quite artistic, use your imagination and be neat.

4. Write the scientific name of the plant (if known) on the outside edge of the fold of newspaper.  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 within 24 hours in a plant drier.  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.

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

8. Finished labels, neatly typed (12pt 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.

9. Specimens are now ready for mounting.

Specimen Mounting

1. Place the acid-free herbarium sheet on a piece of cardboard. Mount the herbarium label in the bottom right corner of the herbarium sheet. Make sure that the label does not hang over the edges of the herbarium sheet (leave an 1/8" - 1/16" edge). Run a single line of glue (Elmer's glue) along the top edge of the label. Flip the label over and line it up so as to leave a small right margin but overlap the bottom of the label by 3/4" to 1". Then with an upward motion push the label into place. This smears the line of glue to a width equivalent to your overlapping distance. Only the top inch or so of the label needs to be glued down. Labels are much easier to change or correct if they aren't completely glued down.

2. Examine the plant and determine which side should face up to display as many floral and vegetative features as possible. "Dry fit" the specimen(s) on the herbarium sheet experimenting with different arrangements. Make sure the plants do not overlap onto the label or off of the herbarium sheet. Where possible arrange plants to be upright, as they would appear in their natural habit. Avoid congregating many small plants in the center or in a corner, spread them out uniformly. Also, try to leave room for a fragment envelope in one of the top corners (preferably top left).

3. After "dry fitting" the plants on the herbarium sheet pick them up one at a time and glue the backside using MO glue (Missouri Botanical Garden type). For small specimens tweezers (forceps) may be used to hold the plant while gluing. Concentrate on gluing main stems and larger leaves where they will contact the herbarium sheet. Put dots of glue on other fruits, flowers and smaller leaves and stems. Do Not Use Excessive Glue! Place the specimen, glue side down, on the acid free herbarium sheet and press lightly. Avoid sliding or moving specimen once it has been glued and set in place! Thus the purpose of "dry fitting". Remember to not let the plant overlap the label or hang off the sheet.

4. Put spots of glue under any loose pieces of the specimen and press them down. A small paintbrush and probe can also be used to spread glue in or under tight spaces. If the stem is thick, one or more pieces of special gummed herbarium tape may be placed across the stem to help hold it in place.

5. When space permits, glue an empty fragment envelope in one of the corners, preferably in the top left corner. Make sure the envelope does not hang over the edges of the herbarium sheet (leave an 1/8" - 1/16" edge). Do not glue down the envelope over the mounted specimen. Use adequate but not excessive glue (Elmers) to cover the backside of the packet, and mount.

6. Add lead weights as needed to hold down the plant and fragment envelope. Generally, you can not use too many (up to 60 percent or more of the plant may be covered with weights). The goal is to hold down as much of the plant as possible until the glue has completely dried. Avoid placing weights directly over exposed glue. Damage will result when trying to remove a glued weight from a specimen.

7. Carefully set the herbarium sheet with the cardboard base aside and let dry. Add extra weights to the corners and center of the herbarium sheet if not already present. This helps to evenly support the next layer of cardboard. Pull out another herbarium sheet, place it on another piece of cardboard and repeat the mounting process. You may carefully stack specimens about 8-10 plants high before beginning a new stack. Let dry for about one day.

8. After one day check for glue dryness. Also, check for plant parts that were not glued down properly. If such parts are found repeat the process from step 4. If loose pieces are found or were broken off and you're unsure of how to glue them back, place them in the fragment envelope associated with the sheet.

9. Once a specimen is successfully mounted place it in the correct cabinet under the label "to be data based".

Herbarium Label Preparation

A herbarium label is a crucial part of any scientific plant collection.  The accuracy of information recorded on a herbarium label directly determines a specimens overall quality and usefulness in botanical research.  Without good location documentation collected plants are of very little use to a herbarium.  Obtaining accurate label information is even more important than being able to correctly identify a plant, because a plant can always be correctly identified later but some label information must be gathered at the place and time of collection.

The following is a guide for what information should be included on a label, the order it should appear, and how labels are formatted at the Freeman Herbarium (AUA) at Auburn University.

1. Type 'PLANTS OF' then insert the State (or country), in bold, where plant was collected, all-caps.                    

2. Generic name, capitalize, underline.

3. Specific epithet, underline.

4. Authority, obtained from flora.

5. County (or province), all-caps.

6. Location description using road miles (driving directions).

7.  Location description from major landmarks, try to use geographical landmarks (rivers, lakes, mountains, valleys, etc., avoid using buildings, street addresses, etc.).

8. Township, Range, Section.

9. Map name and scale used to get Township, Range, & Section.

10. Give latitude and longitude (in degrees, minutes, seconds), obtained from topographical maps or GPS unit.

11. Habitat description, what kind of habitat and soil type was the plant found in? (Roadside, pine woods, hard woods, bogs, beach, riparian, montane, etc.)

12. Statement of surrounding plant community, include some other common associated species. Be sure to italicize or underline other scientific species names.

13. Give the elevation of the location, again obtained from topographical maps or GPS unit. Be sure to indicate feet or meters.

14. Collector name and number. Numbering system can be of your own creation.

15. Must include date of collection in the format shown, (dd month yyyy)

16. List the correct family to which the genus and species belongs.